Speaking at a recent event in California, Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the social network would be introducing a new button. He said, ‘”We have an idea that we’re going to be ready to test soon, and depending on how that does, we’ll roll it out more broadly”. Although the Facebook CEO didn’t name it as such, it has been branded the ‘Dislike’ button.
If it is implemented, this will be an interesting new step for Facebook. The current Like button, that first appeared in 2007, was famously the result of a hackathon. It was proposed as an ‘Awesome’ button. Realising that many post of cats and people’s children were less than awesome, it transformed into the Like that we know today. The success of the button is both its binary simplicity and the fact that it is a positive acknowledgement of the post. Even when a post is more serious or tragic, the action of Liking is widely understood to be positive and supportive.
For Facebook, there is a need to move forwards. At a time when many young users are switching to Instagram and WhatsApp (both owned by Facebook), they need to innovate to encourage retention. The challenge of a Dislike button, though, comes from its very nature. It’s a negative action. In a Wired article, Brian Barrett suggested that it will create a negative atmosphere that will simply put people off posting. Given the personal nature of these networks, it’s easy to understand why users will be discouraged if disapproval is as simple as clicking a button.
The negativity of the Dislike button could, potentially run even deeper though. Unlike Reddit, one of the benefits of Facebook is that posts are not ranked. Once you have two options, Like and Dislike, there will be an inevitable sense of competitiveness on posts, discouraging yet more users.
I’m sure Facebook are aware of the challenges, but they will need to tread carefully. Posts and shares are the lifeblood of Facebook and that in turn is what drives their advertisers. So in the end, the success of a Dislike button will probably come down to money.