TECHNOLOGY

Facebook Is Finally Testing a Powerful Feature That Users Have Begged For Since 2009

Seriously, people have only been asking for this since 2009

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BY Bill Murphy Jr. - 09 Feb 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Facebook debuted in 2004. The "like button," one of its most associated features, didn't roll out until 2009.

Pretty much ever since then, people have asked for its opposite: a dislike button. Now, it appears we might finally be getting it -- or at least something in the direction of a reasonable facsimile.

It's called the "downvote," and it rolled out yesterday to a small subset of Facebook users: 5 percent of people who were accessing Facebook in the United States on Android phones.

Fittingly, a lot of the people who had the new functionality, which Facebook says is only being tested for now, took to Twitter to share images of how it works. (Examples are embedded at the end of this article, or you can check out Matt Navarra of TheNextWeb on Twitter who has several posts.)

We should note that Facebook insists it's not actually called a "dislike button," although in fact that's what a lot of people are already calling it anyway.

"We are not testing a dislike button. We are exploring a feature for people to give us feedback about comments on public page posts. This is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only," Facebook said in a statement provided to Techcrunch.

It's not known if or when the test will be rolled out to more users. Here's what we do know so far.

  • First, pressing the "downvote" button doesn't notify anyone or affect any other user's experience. It's solely limited to providing feedback to Facebook about certain content. In this way, it seems to be an outgrowth of the "hide" function that you see on some posts.
  • Second, as noted in Facebook's statement, it's only rolling out in a manner that lets users offer feedback to the comments on public page posts. You can't downvote a photo or a video that another person or a publisher posted (or this article itself, if you're reading it on Facebook).
  • Tapping the downvote button presents you with options to tag a comment as "offensive," "misleading, or "off topic,' according to screenshots posted by some users for whom the test has been rolled out.
  • The whole thing is very reminiscent of Reddit, as that site's cofounder, Alexis Ohanian Sr. pointed out on Twitter.

Obvious question: Why not just call it a "dislike" button, since that feature has been requested so often that it's basically almost an Internet cliche?

One clue could come from a 2016 interview with Bloomberg, in which Facebook reportedly said the idea of a dislike button had been rejected "on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity."

Comments Mark Zuckerberg made in 2014 also could shed some light on the social network's dislike of "dislike," when he said there were "no plans" to introduce that kind of function:

"There's something that's just so simple about the 'like' button' ... but giving people more ways of expressing more emotions would be powerful. We need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good, not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there."

Of course, Facebook has since rolled out reactions, including "love," "haha,", "wow," "sad," and "angry," along with the original, "like."

What do you think of the new dislike or downvote idea? Let us know in the comments.