After talks of an overhaul of the “Like” button on Facebook for about a year now, starting today, Facebook will launch a new feature called “Reactions”. While the user can still give a post or picture a traditional “Like”, this new feature also gives the user the choice of deciding between five other reactions to a post or action. Besides the “like”, these reactions include Love, Haha, Wow, Sad, and Angry. “Reactions” are designed to be an extension of the “like” button as opposed to a full-on replacement. Users will continue to get notifications when their posts receive ”Reactions” in the same way they’re notified about “likes.”
The mission to build Reactions began just over a year ago. Mark Zuckerberg had finally conceded that the platform needed a more nuanced way for users to interact with posts, for the obvious reason that not every post is likable. “Mark gathered a bunch of people in a room and was like, ‘hey we’ve been hearing this feedback from people for a really, really long time,’” recalls Julie Zhuo, a product design director at Facebook who worked on the reactions product. At the time, users had the option to post a sticker or—gasp—leave a written comment on a friend’s story. But in December of 2015, 1.44 billion people accessed Facebook on mobile. Of people who access it on both a monthly and daily basis, 90 percent of them do so via a mobile device. Commenting might afford nuanced responses, but composing those responses on a keypad takes too much time. People needed a way to leave feedback that was quick, easy, and gesture-based, says Zhuo. Emoji, it seemed, were the best option.
And Then There Were Six
Facebook decided to focus on the sentiments its users expressed most often. Zhuo and the team began by analyzing how a subset of Facebook users from around the world used the platform. They looked at the most frequently used stickers, emoji, and one-word comments and found a few common emotional threads amidst an ocean of diverse sentiments. “When we built the stickers for Facebook the most common thing people sent was love,” Keltner says. People used the hearts-in-the-eyes emoji more than any other. They were also prone to expressing humor, sadness, and shock through visual means. The team took a subset of reactions that cut across the emotional spectrum and removed redundancies like sympathy and sadness, and joy and love. Then they tested them with users.
Facebook FB -1.92% said it will take a few days for the feature to roll out to all users globally across its iOS and Android apps, desktop and the mobile web. The network’s 1.59 billion monthly active users must have the latest version of the app to see the feature. Animations will be available on Wednesday on mobile and will be on desktop soon, Krug said. Initially, Facebook’s algorithm will weigh the use of any “Reaction” the same way it considers a “like”: Whether someone “sads” or “wows” a post, Facebook will view the interaction as a signal that the user wants to see more of that type of post. Over time, however, Facebook notes its algorithm may have a more nuanced understanding of whether users’ “Reactions” they wanted to see that content.
Facebook said it will continue to gather feedback on the feature and could tweak it down the line. While the company doesn’t have plans right now to expand “Reactions” to other Facebook-owned apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, the feature could carry over other apps in the future.
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