Over the past couple of years, there has been much speculation about whether Facebook will ever release a ‘dislike’ button. But finally, the long wait is over: this week Facebook released Reactions, which may not come in the form of a blunt ‘dislike’ button, but is definitely the next best thing.
The new Reactions provide users with more ways to express their feelings about everything on Facebook – whether it’s a cute puppy video, an annoying baby photo or another Kanye West news story, users can click the reaction that represents how they feel about the post.
These six new icons sit next to the ‘like’ button, but now you can choose from a red heart (love), a laughing face (‘ha ha’), a surprised face (wow!), a tearing face (sad), and a cross face (angry). To select one of these, simply click or hover over the blue ‘like’ until a menu with various options appears.
How did Facebook choose icons?
Facebook chose the six icons following a year of much deliberation involving data crunching, mind mapping and various tests. The research team scrutinised trends in user posts, focusing on short comments (1-3 words) and / or the substitute cartoon symbols introduced in 2014.
Tom Alison, Facebook’s News Feed engineering director said “It became pretty clear that it wasn’t going to be about ‘like’ or ‘dislike,’ and it wasn’t going to be 100 reactions.”
Facebook wanted the new Reactions to be universal as today’s social network is accessible in most countries and available in over 70 languages. Part of the research involved tests in a selection of countries including Ireland, Spain and the Philippines to see how the new icons translated across diverse languages and cultures. According to Alison, the early tests with ‘confused’ and ‘yay!’ didn’t make sense for some users, so those icons were scrapped.
First released in 2009, the popular ‘like’ button is a Facebook feature readily adopted by nearly everyone. Over the years, many have clamoured for a ‘dislike’ button. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea, however, for fear of encouraging and simplifying online bullying – something that social channels find difficult to combat.
The additional icons mark a big exit from Facebook’s solitary ‘like’ button. This week’s release will most likely anger some users, and it’s also unclear how Facebook will use the new reactions to tailor what consumers see in their individual News Feeds.
‘Likes’ are interpreted as positive signals by Facebook algorithms and the new Reactions may cause complications. For now, Facebook won’t distinguish between old buttons and the new. In the future they could be used to avoid incidents and prevent the appearance of unwanted images.
Over the next few days, we will continue to see Facebook introducing the new Reactions globally.