Facebook is aping one of Google Now's more useful features in an attempt to keep users engaged. According to a new report from TechCrunch, Facebook is testing new contextual pop-up cards in its iOS app, which are designed to keep users wandering in the Facebook universe for longer periods.
Google Nows cards are useful because they serve as gentle reminders of appointments you have coming up, like meetings or when your favorite team is playing on TV. What Facebook is reportedly testing on a small subset of users is a bit different. Whenever you complete an activity on Facebook—say, you "like" a movie, maybe The Grand Budapest Hotel—a card will pop up on your iPhone's screen to tell you which of your other friends liked the movie, too. (Surprise: It's all of them.) The hope is that you'll click on a bunch of other stuff, and maybe even find something interesting to hold your attention.
As TechCrunch's Josh Constine notes, it's vaguely like Foursquare's vaunted recommendation engine, which suggests cool stuff to check out in your area based on your geolocation.
But like a sad street magician trying to distract you, it is hard to be wowed. It isn't Facebook's fault. Outside of Amazon suggesting what else you should buy, we're still at a point where algorithmically generated recommendations have a hard time curating stuff you might actually care about. Human taste is still too fickle, messy, and complicated. Even for card tricks.