The star icon for “Favorites” was replaced by a heart icon on Twitter last Tuesday. 2006 is when the star icon made its debut however, now will be referred to as “Likes.”
Akarshan Kumar, a Twitter product manager, wrote in a blog post announcing the change saying, “We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers.”
Kumar added, “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite. The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.”
Twitter realizes that alienating its longtime users is a business risk, as it acknowledged in its S-1 filing to become a public company in 2013. Nevertheless the conception of the “like” feature — which has already been panned by journalists, other longtime users and at least one actual Twitter employee — suggests the company is appealing to the masses at the cost of the people who made the platform into a global nervous system for information exchange.
Even though the addition of Like button doesn’t change the core functionality and probably will not, drive power users away, it will pose a particular dilemma for journalists.
For example, let’s say there’s breaking news about a nuclear power plant explosion. Tweets revolving around the topic are something the members of the media will want to bookmark, perhaps as a way of saving or curating them. However, now they will be forced to Like the tweets instead. It’s easy to see how this could be a little dicey especially when considering news coming out of war zones or stories of abuse or natural disaster abuse.
Users have pioneered many of the best features on Twitter over the years — from the #hashtag to the retweet — and later adopted into the product by the company itself. However, Facebook popularized the like button, while on the other hand, Instagram used the heart icon as a core feature. Twitter is swiping conventions from other platforms, rather than adapting user-driven innovations by adopting both concepts.
A company will not sink or be saved by turning Favorites into likes. However, it does suggest that Twitter executives still aren’t interacting with the people who use it most or use the product that much themselves.