As you may have heard, Twitter made a pretty big change today: “Favorites” have become “likes,” which means that the little star icon we've all gotten so familiar with over the years has also become something new — a heart. But why are Twitter stars now hearts, exactly? What necessitated the change? It turns out that the switch was made for a couple of reasons, so let's take a moment to dive into them, shall we?
The first one is ease of use and clarity. Wrote Twitter Product Manager Akarshan Kumar in a blog post announcing the change, “We know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers” — largely because of the associations we all tend to have with the word “favorite.” The Oxford Dictionaries define “favorite” as “preferred above all others of the same kind,” which implies that it's only possible to have one favorite — or, as Kumar noted, “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”
But the second reason, I would argue, is the more interesting one: A heart communicates a lot more than a star does. Wrote Kumar, “The heart, in contrast [to the star], 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.”
That neat-o little GIF Twitter tweeted demonstrates a whole bunch of things a heart might potentially mean — and I've got a few to add myself. See? The heart really is the universal symbol for… well, pretty much whatever you need it to mean.
1. “I Love This”
2. “I Love You”
Double of course.
3. “I Love Pizza”
Or at least, that's probably what it means if you favorite a tweet that consists solely of a pizza emoji.
4. Thumbs Up
A thumbs up is generally my response of choice IRL — I use it to approve of something; to acknowledge that yes, I got the message; to say that everything is good; and so on and so forth. A heart performs pretty much the same function online in the event that a thumbs up isn't available.
A heart is the pictorial representation of the sentiment, “I care about you and I am here for you if you need me.”
6. “This Reaches Right Into The Core Of My Very Being”
Or, “we are kindred spirits.”
7. “I Am About To Perform Open Heart Surgery”
Unlikely, but possible.