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Facebook's new notifications tab is a news hub

By Anthony Johnson, Apr 27 2015 08:34AM

Facebook wants notifications to become much more than a perfunctory list of recent behavior, events and invitations.

Mashable has learned the social network is quietly testing and rolling out a robust new notifications tab that pulls content from across the entire site and serves it up in one central place. Facebook, which confirmed the development to Mashable, plans to introduce the new tab to mobile users across the U.S. first, then worldwide, although it has yet to pin down exact timing.

"We are testing an updated Notifications tab that adds additional, relevant content about everything that might be helpful to know on a particular day," a Facebook spokesperson said.

Inside the new Notifications tab, users can still check out which friends engaged with their posts and who's having a birthday.

The new Notifications tab will feature eight sections by default:


Life Events — a list of events from your friends that were published today, happened today or happened recently.

Events — shows events you’ve joined

Nearby Places — shows three nearby places to eat at. Interestingly enough, Nearby Places is time-sensitive and will recommend different venues based on time of day, like a breakfast spot in the morning. It will only show up if the user has Location Services turned on.

Trending Topics — a list of three topics from the existing Trending Topics area adjacent to your News Feed.

News Shared Locally — a crop of publicly-shared news that's popular (read: viral) in your city.

Today in the Past — displays several posts and photos from some time ago based on whether you liked or commented on them and how popular they were with friends.

Nearby Friends — shows friends who are well, nearby, but only if the user has opted in to the existing feature on mobile.

Users are currently able to personalize Notifications to show less or more of these sections, although it's unclear whether this ability to customize will remain once Notifications rolls out worldwide.

Clicking on "See more..." does just what you would expect: It expands to display several more relevant items, including local news stories in News Shared Locally, for example, or more posts you engaged with a while ago.

This latest rollout is the most ambitious Notifications update for mobile yet. Previously, Notifications was helpful with a more limited scope, alerting your when friends liked or commented on one of your posts, when friends had a birthday, or when someone accepted your friend request. It also showed event invitations and engagement around those events from people who RSVPed "yes."

Facebook has tinkered with time-hopping features in the past, but Today in the Past takes a broader approach, including content that your friends posted which you engaged with.

But the new, improved Notifications tab will prove more useful for the average Facebook user, who already spends 21 minutes a day on the social network, thanks to the integration of more location-based features.

The News Shared Locally feature is a first for Facebook. Although the social network has long been a distribution platform for news (largely via News Feed), this is the first time it has heavily factored in location alongside popularity to increase relevancy for users.

And while Facebook has experimented with time-hopping features for years — most recently with the personal history feature On This Day — Today in the Past takes a broader approach. It's not just resurfacing content you posted say, four years ago, it's actually resurfacing friends' posts, too. So, it might serve up a status update from your best friend, who watched a football game four years ago today because you commented or liked it and because it was a popular post overall.

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