Twelve years ago today, the way you relate to your friends, your news, and the vacation photos of people you haven't spoken to since high school was changed forever: Facebook launched its original site. First created as a social resource for Harvard University students, "The Facebook" (as it was called at the time) was the online counterpart to an actual printed publication that collected photos and contact information of staff and students. Within a month, half of all Harvard undergraduate students had a profile on the site. After quickly expanding to include students from other universities, Facebook opened up to high schoolers in September 2005, and by September 2006, membership was open to anyone with an email address and a burning hunger to have more cat videos in their life. Today, one billion people actively use the site each day.
But one element that we view as a standard part of the Facebook experience was not part of the original design at all — the "like" button, which is clicked on 6 billion times a day today, and has recently been expanded into the "Facebook Reactions" icons. Not a part of the site's original design, the "like" button — which allows you to convey emotions ranging from emotional support for your friend's band to quietly seething envy over your other friend's amazing job promotion — was an addition that took a lot of campaigning, caused internal debate, and almost involved the word "awesome." So, in honor of Facebook's anniversary, here are seven things you probably didn't know about the invention of the "like" button, and how it changed through the years.
1. It Was Originally Supposed To Be An "Awesome" Button
Facebook existed for around five years without a "like" button, but the idea for a button users could use to express excitement or support for a post came up early in the company's run. When the idea was first conceived inside Facebook in 2007, the button was designed to say "awesome" — "like" was thought by many at the company to not be a strong enough word.
But according to a Quora thread created by Facebook engineer Andrew Bosworth, reported on by TechCrunch, Mark Zuckerberg decided that the button should say "like" instead. Which it did when it made its public debut a short while later, in February 2009.
2. It Took A While For The Idea Of A "Like" Button To Get Approved
According to a 2015 article in the New Statesman, despite the fact that Facebook's News Feed and ad teams were eager to develop a button that would show which posts users liked best, Facebook creator Zuckerberg initially feared that the button might overshadow "the Facebook 'share' and comment features — perhaps people would just 'awesome' something, rather than re-posting the content or writing a message."
3. Before There Was A "Like" Button, There Was A User Feedback Form
Early on in Facebook's existence, before there was a button of any sort, there was another way to weigh on how you felt about a post without commenting or sharing — some users were given the option of leaving positive or negative feedback for News Feed posters or ads, which was not visible to other users. This system was quickly dropped, though.
4. The Thumb Was At One Point Going To Be A Star
When plans for a button to show approval first began, Facebook designers toyed with a few different ideas, including hearts, a star-based rating system, and a plus/ minus sign option. And even once they settled on the "thumbs up" design that we are familiar with today, they still tinkered: as Soleio Cuervo, the designer behind the "thumbs up" told Mashable, prior to landing on the blue-and-white thumb, "We had a green thumbs up. We had a heart. We explored stars...But they were all just sort of generic."
5. There Were Fears About Offending Some International Users With A Thumbs Up
In some parts of the world, the thumbs up is considered a rude gesture — according to Gayle Cotton, writing on the Huffington Post, the thumbs up gesture " in Australia, Greece, or the Middle East...means essentially 'Up yours!' or 'Sit on this!'" Facebook considered using a different "like" button design in those areas. But Cuervo held fast that one single design should be used across Facebook in every region.
6. The "Recommend" Button Exists For Stories That People Might Feel Uneasy About "Liking"
Have you noticed that on some sites, the classic "like" button has been traded out for a "recommend" button? There's no difference in function between the two buttons — both will register the story as "liked" by you. But web programmers are given the option to pick between the two words when adding the Facebook button to a story — "recommend" is a favored option for stories covering content that people might feel uncomfortable about saying they "like" (say, a natural disaster or other tragic news) but still want to support and share with friends.
7. There Will Probably Never Be A "Dislike" Button
Despite some rumblings in 2015 that a "dislike" button was on the way, it wasn't — the expansion of the "like" button that led many to assume a "dislike" button was in the works was actually Facebook Reactions. And despite the many demands for a "dislike" button, there probably won't be one unveiled any time in the near future. As Mark Zuckerberg said in 2015 a Facebook Q & A related to Facebook's unveiling of new comment options (transcribed by TechCrunch):
"We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts. That doesn’t seem like the kind of community we want to create. You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that’s important to you in your day and then have someone down vote it."
Pretty solid point. Will that still hold true 12 more years from now, when Facebook is celebrating almost a quarter century of business, and we'll all presumably be driving rocket cars to the hologram store? Oh, wouldn't you "like" to know. (Sorry, it's been a really long week)
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