by Matt Kapko

Facebook (finally) goes beyond the ‘Like’ with new ‘Reactions’

News Analysis
Oct 09, 2015
Consumer Electronics Facebook Social Networking Apps

Facebook is set to roll out a new way for users to interact, beyond comments and the simple 'Like' button. However, its new 'Reactions' emojis aren't the "Dislike" option many users want, and they attempt to solve a problem that may not have a solution.

The question drives a significant share of activity on Facebook every day. More specifically, the company processed 6 billion Likes per day at the end 2014, according to Jason Taylor, Facebook’s vice president of infrastructure.

Facebook’s seemingly all-inclusive, and now globally recognized, thumbs-up Like symbol represents one of only two ways you can interact with posts in your News Feeds. The company has been especially restrictive on this point — limiting engagement to Likes and comments — and a “Dislike” option has been the most requested feature from users for years, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

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The company is apparently now willing to give the people what they want with its new “Reactions,” a set of six emojis (in addition to the Like button). By hovering over or long-pressing the Like button, you will be able to choose from a series of animated Reactions including “Love,” “Haha,” “Yay,” “Wow,” “Sad” and “Angry.” Reactions are currently available only to Facebook users in Ireland and Spain, but the feature is expected to roll out globally later this year. 

Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, says the company “studied which comments and reactions are most commonly and universally expressed across Facebook” before designing the new feature. The social network has been experimenting with new ways for users to interact with posts for a long time, but the idea of a “dislike” button was never really a serious option, according to recent comments from company leaders.

A Facebook problem without an easy solution

With Reactions, Facebook is trying to resolve a problem that may not have a simple solution. Surely there are better ways to show empathy than tapping an animated emoji on Facebook, but that responsibility falls on the people who use the service, not Facebook.

“People aren’t looking for an ability to down-vote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy,” Zuckerberg said during a public question and answer session in September. “If you are sharing something that is sad, whether it’s something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you, or if a family member passed away, then it might not feel comfortable to Like that post.”

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You can already drop emojis and stickers into comments. However, a Like can never convey the entire spectrum of human emotion, and neither can sad or angry emojis.

Basic emoji functionality has long been available on other social networks and sites, and Facebook appears to have delayed Reactions as long as it could. You still won’t get everything you want with Reactions, nor will Facebook and its advertisers.