Heart This: Why Everyone Hates Twitter’s New Button, and Why I ‘Like’ it

At approximately 9:46AM Tuesday morning, November 3rd, Twitter did the unthinkable. They killed off the favorite button.

Well, they didn’t kill it, per say. They changed it, from the star icon we all know and love (no pun intended), to a heart-shaped like button.

As often happens when a popular platform makes tweaks to its core features, most people were outraged. And by most people, I mean nearly all of them, at least according to this Twitter poll ran by Buzzfeed.

But why all the hate? Shouldn’t this move be perceived as a step in the right direction for Twitter?

Not exactly. According to the masses, it was a terrible move, and it isn’t all that difficult to discern why. Let’s look at a few of the key underlying causes of this backlash, before I get into why I’m in the vast minority on this move.

Twitter users hate the heart because:

  1. It’s been done before. In fact, Instagram has built up so much equity in the heart that making this move so late in the game just makes Twitter look like a copycat, and no one likes a copycat.
  2. The favorite was unique to Twitter. By making this move, many users feel Twitter is losing something that separates it from the other major platforms.
  3. It doesn’t represent the same utility as a favorite. The favorite was actually such an ambiguous function, people adapted different usages for it over the years (e.g. bookmarking, acknowledging receipt of a reply, getting someone to stop tweeting you, etc.). A like has an entirely different meaning associated with it.
  4. What’s the point anymore? Twitter’s been dying or dead for a while now in the public eye. These recent moves smell of desperation, and people hate desperation.

No matter how much you — or I, in this case — love the idea of Twitter, there isn’t much to debate about the above. They are all valid points, and users have a right to express public frustration over them. After all, that’s what Twitter is for, right?

As much as I agree with the above, I tend to focus on the bigger picture. Here’s why I think this is ultimately a good thing for Twitter.

I like the heart because:

  1. It should lead to increased engagement. The fact that the heart is so universal, plus the fact that we do use it in abundance on other platforms (Instagram), makes it a function that’s easier to understand and use. As it stands, many tweets receive little to no engagement at all. The lack of feedback/social stimulus stemming from a button that everyone seemed to use differently wasn’t going to change that. This might.
  2. It isn’t a drastic change (for me). In the early days of Twitter, when people were first figuring out what to do with the favorite button, many — including myself — used it strictly for bookmarking. Once you “save” ~1,000 tweets, however, you realize you’re never going to go back and re-read/share any of them. In recent years, like many others, I’ve been using the ‘fave’ the same way I treat Facebook’s like button, anyway.
  3. It caters to new users. The dirty little secret that no one seems to want to tell is that those of us who have been on Twitter since the beginning don’t particularly care about its ‘new user problem.’ We like our niche — if you can call it that — community we’ve helped form, just the way it is. But the truth is, if Twitter doesn’t show it can create more monthly active users, it’s only a matter of time before it really does die. Adding new features (and tweaking existing ones to be a little more ubiquitous) is how you attract (and keep!) new users.
  4. It shows Twitter is ready to evolve. I have a theory that had Twitter made the moves it’s making today 2 or 3 years ago, its stock would be trending upward instead of down. I think the fact that it’s taken them this long to think beyond 140 characters, so to speak, is part of what pisses a lot of people off. Now that Jack’s back at the helm, I think it’s clear that Twitter is ready to evolve, which might mean ruffling a few feathers (pun intended) now and again. Regardless, I respect the intent.

Chris Sacca, who I have to give a shout out to in this, actually called Twitter hearts back in June, along with Twitter polls, extending the character limit, and a host of other things that may or may not happen in the future. I strongly suggest you read his piece if you haven’t yet. It’s fascinating.

Regardless of where you stand, if you found this article insightful, it’d mean the world to me if you hearted it up. ;)