Twitter's effort to make the site more appealing to new users fell flat with existing ones.
Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey has said a top priority is to make Twitter more intuitive to outsiders. On Tuesday, the company unveiled one attempt to do that, by letting people “like” tweets with a heart icon, replacing the star-shaped “favorite” button.
Outrage ensued. Many users have gotten quite used to the implications of a “favorite” and have assigned particular meaning to stars that hearts just can’t replace. There’s the hate-fave, when something angers you so much, and you want to react but not retweet it. There’s the flirt-fave, to subtly tell your crush they’re being funny or smart. There’s the fave that lets you acknowledge a response to your tweet, without having to engage further.
Hearts bring love into the equation. And love—especially on a site mostly used for spreading news and information—can seem out of place. They also make Twitter sound more like Facebook.
Some users drew parallels with the New Coke debacle of the 1980s, when Coca-Cola introduced a new flavor for its popular soft drink, to the horror of traditionalists. The company reversed course within months, bringing back the original Coke.
Even Facebook has acknowledged, as it becomes more of a news destination, that "likes" may not be applicable to tragic stories about plane crashes or the refugee crisis, for example. It is testing buttons that would let people be angry, or say "wow."
Twitter’s executives seem to think people will get over it. Spokesman Jim Prosser posted a picture of Aaron Rodgers saying "R-E-L-A-X," in reference to the quarterback’s famous comments to Green Bay Packers fans ahead of a winning season. Head of product Kevin Weil retweeted an industry commentator:
Early Twitter investor Chris Sacca, who pushed for this change in a blog post about Twitter's challenges in June, also acknowledged that the button may be hard to accept at first.
"Users hate change. I remember years ago when Ev showed me the then-new retweet button," Sacca said, referring to co-founder Evan Williams. "I told him it was a bad idea. Ha."
If Twitter’s core users are this riled up about favorites, we can imagine how they’ll react to some other changes Twitter is considering, such as extending the 140-character limit on tweets. Twitter has been struggling with years of slowing user growth, and this may be the price of going mainstream.