To see my Twitter stream yesterday, one would have thought that hearts were the most hated symbols in social media.



"Y @Twitter, whyyyyyyy?"


That's more or less what I saw after Twitter announced it was retiring "Favorites," which were demarcated with a star, in favor of "Likes," which are demarcated with a heart.

The outcry both surprised and didn't surprise me.

Social media HATES change. I remember a few years ago when everyone on Facebook was loudly decrying a change to their news feeds and I honestly couldn't even figure out what the change was. A friend added me as an admin to a Facebook group, "People complaining about the new Facebook change 6 months before it happens." Or something like that.

We do not deal with change well.

We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

Of course they did. I see what you did there, @jack.

I run with a lot of journalists in social circles, and their reasoning for disliking the heart replacing the star was that the star and "favorites" served as a bookmarking function. To them, it didn't indicate support or approval of the tweet. It might be a topic they were writing on and wanted to come back to. It might be to remember who stood on what side of an issue.

But a heart, they note, it's like saying: "I like this. I support this. I approve of this."

My response to that was, "Well, so does 'favorite,' technically." Just because you were using the star as a bookmark, it was still labeled "favorite," and implied something more than bookmarking. People understood the meaning of using favorite; now that it's changed, I find it hard to believe people will suddenly think you are loving what they said if they didn't before.

There are, however, some legitimate issues with the change.

  • Twitter is making yet another move to be more like Facebook. But Twitter is not Facebook. It shouldn't try to be Facebook. Twitter has tremendous value, but it is a bit harder for people to wrap their minds around than Facebook. It's more abstract. The solution to getting more people engaged with Twitter isn't to make it more like Facebook; it's to better tell Twitter's story. Twitter's problems aren't going to be solved by becoming more like Facebook.
  • Creating a bookmark function would be hugely useful, particularly for the hardcore users of the site. And the bookmark icon is pretty universal and understood. While it would serve the needs of the hardcore users, there's a value in catering to those users. If you lose the people who use your product all day, every day, how can you expect to bring in new users?
  • While they're at it, add a "poop" emoticon function so you can express your distaste when someone posts a crappy linkbait article. Thanks for the idea Sid Hassim.

Twitter is a fantastic tool. I use it every day. It's how I find out the latest news - whether it's that Twitter changed stars to hearts or that there was a bombing at the Boston Marathon. I live-tweet TV shows (last night's homage to Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Limitless on CBS was fabulous) and adore the communities I participate in there.

Twitter needs to find its own way and capitalize on how it's being used well.

Hearts versus stars? If that's what Twitter's been focusing on, it can't see the forest for the trees.