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Facebook copies Twitter with trending topics rollout

This morning's 86th Academy Awards nominations became instant social media fodder: Who got snubbed? Who is undeserving? When will they rename the event The Meryls? But it's easy to lose track of the discussion.

Facebook has begun rolling out its new Trending feature, designed to surface relevant conversations — like the upcoming Oscars telecast — and help users discover more content.

Desktop users in the US, UK, Canada, India, and Australia will begin seeing the new Trending box on the top right side of the homepage. Denoted by squiggly blue arrows, the topics range from people (Bruce Springsteen, Rex Ryan) to events (Academy Awards, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show) to places (J.C. Penney).

Each topic is accompanied by a bold headline and a brief explanation of why it is trending; click on the title to open a separate feed of dedicated articles, videos, photos, status updates from friends, public Pages, and other fans.

Only those posts that have been shared by friends or made Public will appear on the page.

In the same vein as Twitter's popular Trending Topics function, Facebook is using an algorithm to highlight subjects that have seen a sharp increase in popularity. The list is not based on overall volume of posts about a topic.

Intended to reflect what is being discussed right now, the box will constantly and automatically update with new subjects as the day goes on and conversations change.

"The list is personalized, including topics based on things you're interested in and what is trending across Facebook overall," Chris Struhar, a Facebook engineering manager, said in a statement.

A quick test at our offices displayed some friendly faces at the top of the Trending topic pages on which they've commented. Facebook did not, however, reveal how it will determine the order of posts on each page.

"Facebook is a space where people from all over the world gather every day to share their thoughts and participate in real-time conversations," Struhar said.

The social network giant is beginning to step on Twitter's toes, first snagging the popular hashtag feature, now adding its own trending topics section—ideas also implemented by Quora, YouTube, and Google+.

Reports of Facebook's Trending box initially appeared in late August, when a company spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that it began testing the feature among a "small percentage of U.S. users."

The move could be an attempt to appeal to a generation that have forsaken Facebook for other sites like Twitter.