SAN FRANCISCO — Coming soon to Facebook: a “dislike” button.
Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement Tuesday during a Q&A session streamed live online from Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
Facebook had resisted creating a “dislike” button as a companion to its “like” button, fearing it would sow seeds of discontent on the world’s most popular social network.
But in recent years Zuckerberg softened his stance, responding to popular demand from Facebook users who say “like” does not fit certain status updates and situations, say a death in the family or a crisis.
“It’s important to give people more options than just ‘like’ to help express empathy and sympathy, Zuckerberg said. “Not every moment is a good moment.”
Zuckerberg said Facebook is close to unveiling the “dislike” button. What’s more likely is that Facebook will unveil a “sympathize” button or a series of buttons that convey support or solidarity or express other similarly positive emotions. The giant social network encourages civil interactions among its 1.5 billion users.
Facebook said in an emailed statement: “We have nothing to share beyond Mark’s comments today.”
The possibility of a “dislike” button popped up last December during another Q&A session. In response to a question, Zuckerberg said: “We’re thinking about it.”
But he made it clear that Facebook was proceeding cautiously.
“Some people have asked for a dislike button because they want to say, ‘That thing isn’t good.’ And that’s not something that we think is good for the world. So we’re not going to build that,” Zuckerberg said at the time.
The idea is one that for years has been debated inside Facebook. In 2013, Facebook engineers designed a “sympathize” button during a hackathon.
What Facebook is trying to avoid: the less cordial, more negative interactions, such as up voting and down voting, that take place on services such as Reddit. Facebook also does not want to discourage people from sharing or liking as freely as they do now on Facebook.
That stance was echoed in the response on question-and-answer service Quora from a Facebook engineer in 2012 on why Facebook did not have a “dislike” button.
“While many users love the idea of Facebook adding a dislike button, I don’t think there are many users who are dying to have their own content disliked,” the engineer wrote. “Like music that auto-plays on profiles or the ability to have animated profile backgrounds, there are many things users want for themselves, but don’t enjoy when given to others in their social network. While there are posts where a dislike button could be used to express sympathy or commiseration, I would estimate that the vast majority of its uses will be just ambiguous negativity that would be demoralizing to the poster.”
Social media observers predict a “dislike” button will be a boon for Facebook.
“They may use a dislike button to express some negative emotions, like frustration with ads popping up in their feeds, but I doubt it will cause them to start wantonly disliking pictures of their friends’ babies dogs cats and cooking experiments,” Dr. Andrea Forte, a Drexel University professor who studies social media, said in an email. “I suspect it will mainly be used to express mild disapproval, or to express solidarity when someone posts about a negative event like a death or a loss.”