Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook is working on something akin to a ‘dislike’ button. Photo: Erin Lubin.
A recent announcement by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has set the tech crowd a chatter this week. During a “Town Hall” Q&A session at the social media giant’s Menlo Park headquarters Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook was testing alternatives to the “like” button. “People have asked about the ‘dislike’ button for many years,” Zuckerberg said. “Today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it.”
For some the immediate response to this was surprise that Facebook was finally going to give users the feature many have joked about for years; a “dislike” button. In truth, this update is very unlikely to deliver an actual button called “dislike”.
Why? Because if Facebook’s users were given the option to “dislike” a piece of content this interaction could be easily misconstrued as a sign of rejection. This could start to erode the stickiness of the Facebook platform – which is bad for content creators and very bad for business from Facebook’s perspective.
What Facebook is more likely to do is test a range of buttons that allow people to show different types of emotions other than a simple like. For example, when a friend’s parent dies nobody wants to “like” the event, but providing a way to show sympathy would be beneficial.
Of course underneath all of this is Facebook’s business model – delivering ultra-targeted advertising. What this latest announcement tells us is that Facebook is now ready to create even more complex psychometric profiles of its users. Knowing all the brands, pages, people and posts someone “likes” gives Facebook an amazing view of each of its users – adding an additional level of behavioural interactivity allows this to get even more sophisticated.
In the short term this will give advertisers even more data to use to deliver messages. Using the earlier example, it is very easy to imagine a world where someone, after seeing the post about a friend’s parent passing away, hits a button that expresses “I’m sorry” and is then is presented with an ad for flowers delivery.
In the longer term this more complex view of Facebook’s users is going to help drive the progression of its artificial intelligence personal assistant, currently called simply ‘M’.
These new buttons will begin being tested very soon, but it will be only as they are refined and exposed to the whole Facebook user base that we will see the full impact of what a simple button, with a simple word on it, could actually be.