If you've been paying much attention to Twitter lately, you might be scratching your head. What are they even doing over there? Do they have someone at the helm, or are they just making changes for the sake of making changes?

You might think I'm referring to their planned change to the Tweet buttons, including the removal of tweet count, but for once I'm not. In this instance, I'm talking about changing the star to the heart, the Favorite into the Like.

Who do they think they are, Facebook?

Okay, to be honest, there's a reason for the change. The favorite button was never really used as a favorite outside of some rare circles. Some bot accounts would monitor people in their network and deliver "most favorited of the week" awards, but there really wasn't much more to it. Most people just used the favorite button as a like button anyways, because that's the kind of engagement they're used to on Facebook.

There were some benefits to the favorite button beyond just what you get from a like button, of course. While favorites were a public metric, they weren't really a high profile one. It was more of a tool for your own use. You could view a list of just the tweets you've favorited, and could use the list as something of a bookmarks tool. You can still do this with likes, though, so the change here isn't a functional one.

On the other hand, calling them favorites rather than likes gave some people pause. If you were new to the platform, or if you didn't really know how Twitter engagement worked, you would end up with the impression that a favorite was somehow a more serious form of engagement. A like on Facebook is very much a hand wave, nothing more. It's a passing "I appreciate this post" without the need for any further elaboration. On the other hand, saying something is your favorite implies a greater degree of attention or engagement with the tweet in question. This led to many people not using the feature as frequently as Twitter might have liked.

This isn't just me saying this, either. According to Twitter themselves, the like button is already 6% more popular than the favorite button, even though absolutely no functionality has changed. Newcomers to the platform immediately grasped the lighthearted nature of the new like button and use it 9% more than previous new users, as well.

There's also the stand-out factor of the new button itself. The star icon wasn't really that much of an exceptional presence. The yellow color meshed well with the blue and white of Twitter itself, so it didn't stand out in shape or in color. The new button is pink, though, and it's a heart. Hearts are a more universal symbol of approval, and the pink color stands out as more gratifying when you like something.

Of course, none of this is perfect. Some people hate and fear change, and they're of course not happy with the new button. They have some legitimate gripes, though. I agree with one; the favorite button set Twitter apart from all of the other platforms that use a basic, generic like. I don't agree, though, that Twitter favorites were really used all that differently from Facebook likes. The added list functionality is nice, but in pure function, it didn't really set the two actions apart.

What do you think? Were favorites a better option with a more robust feel, or did they just devolve into likes when new users grew more comfortable with the platform? Is the heart a better fit for Twitter than the star? Feel free to weigh in. Not that your opinions will change much; Twitter has already state that the new button is better in their eyes, so they're pretty unlikely to bother changing back.

Published on: Nov 25, 2015