Facebook’s “Like Button Problem”

posted at 7:40 pm on September 22, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

Facebook – still locked in a desperate battle to see who can launch Skynet’s army of killer robots first – has a problem. Any user of the web is already familiar with the ubiquitous Facebook “like” and “share” buttons, whether you primarily follow politics, geek fare, cooking or anything else. (Savvy readers will quickly note that you’ll find both of them on each article you read when browsing Hot Air.) But to the great disappointment of Mark Zuckerberg, not enough people are using the “like” feature. What’s a billionaire to do?

Never fear… Facebook has a plan.

You can’t deny the success of Facebook‘s Like button. Its popularity quickly skyrocketed; it took less than a month for the button to appear on more than 100,000 websites. Now it is a standard method for endorsing something on the social web.

But that’s exactly the problem — the Like button is an endorsement. If you run across an interesting article and share it, it’s seen as an implicit endorsement. And although that has gotten Facebook this far, the social platform is ready to go further.

The company did some internal research and found that users, especially younger ones, were afraid to “Like” because of the implied endorsement. Less Liking, or sharing, means less interesting content on Facebook and fewer posts about what these users are doing.

The solution, as detailed in the linked article, is that FB will now offer a new set of buttons associated with web content. They will be “Watched,” “Listened” and “Read” buttons, depending on the content type. (I know, you’re terribly excited. But hang with me for a moment.)

First of all, I can relate to the problem of the “Like” button. We recently had some very serious flooding problems in Upstate NY and a FB page was established where people were compiling flood photos and relief information. It’s kind of weird to hit a “like” button on pictures of people’s homes and businesses being destroyed, but I did it anyway. I ran into a similar situation when a friend’s grandmother passed away and the information was posted on Facebook. All of our friends were passing it around so prayers and messages of support could be sent to the family that way.

But hitting a “like” button was rather odd, as I’m sure you’ll agree. “Oh, so your granny died? Well, I certainly like that!

But Facebook is still trying to steer away from having a “dislike” button. As one author noted, it could lead to an explosion of oversharing. But this left me wondering… if there is still a “like” button clearly displayed and somebody goes to the trouble of choosing the “read” or “watched” option, doesn’t that sort of become the default “dislike” button?

I just listened to the latest release from Eclectic Skunk. And BOY does it blow chunks!”

Why would a web content service such as the New York Times want a “dislike” button on their material? The next time Paul Krugman publishes something completely heinous, it would just be an excuse to advertise that millions of readers wish he would crawl under a rock and disappear. I’m not sure that Facebook is solving anything with this move. But I also know there’s plenty of times I’d like to see a “this sucks” button on things I read.

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