Facebook users in areas with poor connections and no WiFi are probably all too familiar with the loading spinner and the “No Internet Connection” dialog. Those in deadzones or who have no internet access have traditionally been barred from seeing their favorite content and their friends’ updates, leaving them out in the social cold until they found a spot to catch some signal or WiFi. With an update that begins rolling out today, Facebook for Android users won’t have to put up with that anymore, with a catch.
When offline, Facebook will search your cache for stories and posts you haven’t seen , checking if the pictures for them are available and ranking them by relevance. The cached stories will show up on your News Feed screen in place of a loading icon or “No Internet Connection”. This will pair nicely with a feature that’s currently in testing, which would allow the app to pull stories and pictures while you’re not using the app, but with a minimal hit on battery usage. There’s no word yet on when this may begin rolling out, but odds are it will be in testing for a while, since a good balance between background usage and battery preservation will need to be reached. Users can now post comments while offline, as well. The Facebook app will store offline comments until a connection is present, then post them. It’s not specified if you can edit or delete pending comments in the same way that posted comments can be posted, but that’s most likely the case.
The new changes won’t affect the News Feed ranking system, although ranks that offline users see may change when they get online. Users who are normally in the presence of a good connection likely won’t notice the changes, but users in deadzones or who travel frequently can breathe a sigh of relief. Along with the option to compose posts offline and have them uploaded when a connection is present, this means that Facebook users can, for the most part, get the full experience while offline. Perhaps they’ll still have trouble with Messenger or Farmville, but posting, checking out and commenting on stories and photos will be integrated seamlessly with online mode.