Users can expect to see an update to their Facebook notifications tab that looks quite a lot like Google Now. The update, which is rolling out gradually across iOS and Android for users in the United States, introduces a new set of “cards” into the space once reserved for your friends’ likes, comments, birthdays, and event invitations.
The update will arrive in your mobile app and you’ll see updates for your favourite TV shows, sports teams, news stories and weather updates. News gets broken up into multiple categories — you’ll see stories trending across all of Facebook along with stories shared frequently wherever you happen to live.
You can also enjoy movie times and nearby places to visit like restaurants, all in your feed. It’s all straight out of the playbook invented by Siri and Google Now, and in its initial form doesn’t go much further. What’s interesting is the sheer gravity of the notifications tab — it’s a place that often has our undivided attention, and that we check multiple times a day. In this, it has the potential to become the dominant place we consume this kind of daily information.
Facebook needs to personalize the information it provides, so at the moment, for example, the sports scores you see are tied to which teams you have “liked” on Facebook — a step millions of us haven’t taken, and never will. Google is clever about personalizing its cards, and Facebook still has a lot to learn from it.
Although Facebook says it has no plans to sell ads in these notifications, we imagine the prospect will only grow more appealing over time. Meanwhile, we want to know about almost every like we receive on Facebook and we’re not that interested in what movies are showing when and where.
You can delete cards as you see fit but we think most people will stick with the defaults, and the result is a kind of secondary News Feed that (at least in the case of news and sports scores) carries much of the same information as the original.
Notifications have traditionally been the place in a social app where you see the absolute most personally relevant information; by expanding what it sees as notification-worthy, Facebook may be diluting that.