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Facebook's "reactions" go global

February 24, 2016

The new feature allows users around the world to express how they really feel - especially in situations where a thumbs-up could be met with a facepalm. But will the lack of a "dislike" button make some users "sad"?

DW Shift Virtual Reality im Kino
Image: DW/A. Dluzak

The world's biggest social network, Facebook, on Wednesday rolled out "Reactions," an extension of its controversial "like" button, worldwide.

The new feature, which was first piloted in Ireland and Spain in October, allows users to express a full(er) range of emotions, including "love," "haha," "wow," "sad" and "angry."

The five new additions to Facebook's emoji family pop up when users long-press - or, on a computer, hover over - the "like" button. But with over 1.5 billion active users worldwide, the company warned it could take a few days before the buttons would be available to everyone.

"We will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content," Facebook said in blog post.

Over time, it added, it hoped to learn how different "reactions" should be weighted differently by the Facebook News Feed to customize it for individual users. It added that, for now, the expanded emoticons would have the same impact on ad delivery to users' pages as "likes."

Neue Emoji-Buttons von Facebook
"Yay" didn't make the final cut in the running for Facebook's new "Reactions"Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo

Bye-bye, Kittens

The rollout follows years of debate about the seven-year-old "like" button, which in many ways revolutionized social media. Many users argued that "liking" a post that actually made them feel sad or outraged felt inappropriate, and called on Facebook to provide a more nuanced way to interact with news in their feed. While CEO Mark Zuckerberg eventually condeded that not every post was likable, his team felt the "dislike" button that many had requested was not the right answer either.

According to a post by Facebook's Chris Cox dated October, when the pilot roll-out was launched: "Today we're launching a pilot test of Reactions - a more expressive Like button. As you can see, it's not a "dislike" button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly."

Facebook uses a complex formula to decide which posts show up more prominently in users' newsfeed. By tapping the more complex emotional range of "Reactions," product design director Julie Zhuo said users can soon expect a feed that better reflects them, meaning that those reaching for the "angry" button often probably shouldn't expect to see quite as many cuddly kittens in future.

nz/pad (AFP, Reuters, Facebook)