This is the story of the “Like” button that, 11 years after its creation, hypnotizes millions of people every day..
It was July 2007 and Leah Pearlman was meeting a friend. “Hey,” he said, “Why don’t you create a button with a kind of “bomb” to mark certain posts?Pearlman was a designer on the Facebook News Feed team. That, she told herself, might make sense.
That was the germ of what ended up being the button “Like” (“Like”) that has become the symbol of a whole generation and that millions of people use millions of times daily. This is the (short) story of its creation.
The idea convinced, the implementation did not
Steven Levy tells part of that story in his book ‘Facebook: The Inside Story’, in which your data contrasts slightly with those who posted on Quora in 2014 Andrew Bosworth, engineer on Facebook.
Bosworth mentions Pearlman (listed on Quora as “User-10344780651167228015” because he deleted his account) and goes over that story with his email history. According to his version, this project was born as an idea between Justin Rosenstein, Leah Pearlman, Ezra Callahan, Akhil Wable and Bosworth himself, who christened that proposal with the code name “Props”.
The bomb never ended up being considered a valid sign to implement the idea, and instead they were considered symbols such as stars, the “plus” symbol (“+”), which could be accompanied by “minus”, and also a thumbs up symbol, which worried them because in some regions of the planet it did not make a positive sense.
In those initial discussions, by the way, the button it was not called “Like” but “Awesome” (“Great”).
Rosenstein, one of those involved in these discussions, mentioned in Levy’s book how even then this button was thought to could have interesting value for commercial purposes– It would be a subtle way to help identify what a user was interested in without that user explicitly sharing those preferences with Facebook.
In a hackathon a few days later an initial prototype of the “awesome button” was created, and during the following weeks work began on the design of that symbol and its interaction. According to Bosworth, the project generated a lot of interest, and the marketing team highlighted its potential to “filter bad stories” and serve as one more way to recommend good content.
On August 22, 2007, Bosworth notes, the use of the word “Like” instead of “Awesome” was proposed.. There is no mention of who came up with the name, but the original team did not quite agree with this new name that seemed “bland” to them.
Despite the initial good reception of the project, the interest seemed to fade, among other things because, as Bosworth explains, they were trying to find a user interface for this functionality that would fit in all sections of Facebook. In September 2007 things deflated a bit, but The one who would drive this effort again would not be Facebook itself, but a rival social network.
From doubts to the total revolution of Like
It was about FriendFeed —Not to be confused with Friendster—, which was launched in October 2007 and also did so with the first real implementation of the “Like” button. Earlier, some pointed out in comments, platforms like Vimeo had used that button with their heart since 2005.
It started as a ❤️ symbol, but then FriendFeed employee Ana said she would quit if she had to look at pages of ❤️s all day (she was grumpy like that). So we launched with 😀, and Facebook eventually adopted the feature with the now ubiquitous 👍.
– Bret Taylor (@btaylor) October 31, 2017
Bret Taylor, one of the founders of that platform, remembered 10 years later how at first they used the heart symbol, but an employee named Ana He threatened to leave the company if he had to spend all day looking at pages with little hearts, so they decided to change that symbol for a smiling smiley.
Interestingly, no one seemed to notice on Facebook, and work on that feature continued to progress. On November 12, 2007, everything seemed to be ready to launch it definitively, but “the final review with Zuck surprisingly did not go well“They were concerned that it was not clear whether that interaction was public or private and whether” Like “would ultimately cannibalize” Share. “Suddenly development as it was conceived stopped.
A few days later the feature appeared erroneously on Facebook, which allowed some users and media to start talking about it. Facebook ended up integrating it into small-scale experiments that actually allowed for both positive and negative feedback, but that information was private and was not shared socially: if you hit the “Like”, no one knew you had done it.
That, says Bosworth, ended up condemning its integration into the news feed, and after several tests throughout 2008 the project fell into the hands of Jonathan Pines, Jared Morgernstern and Soleio Cuervo. That project “was considered cursed because he had never passed Zuck’s reviews. ”
What did they do to convince you? Demonstrate that the “Like” button did not reduce engagement, but increased it. They joined the team with Itamar Rosen, who recorded and presented the data, and Zuck seemed convinced that as Bosworth recounted, “the Like button increased the number of comments due to how the news thread used the Like as a signal to redistribute them.”
That sped up the integration of the Like button, which was launched definitely on February 9, 2009. Leah Pearlman, that employee who apparently was the first to comment on the idea, was in charge of announcing the novelty (here you have the original post) on Facebook, which by the way, FriendFeed bought in August of that year.
The Like button would end up becoming an integral part of the interaction on any platform or social network. YouTube redesigned the service in 2010 and replaced the stars with Likes, and that failed network called Google+ used their “+1” for the same purpose. Twitter allows you to mark tweets as favorites since its inception, but began using a star and ended up replacing it with the heart in November 2015.
Although the feature exploded with Facebook, it is likely that many users associate it with Instagram, “the social network of likes“par excellence.
Its influence and impact is overwhelming in a network that for example has a memorable, fantastic and dystopian portrait in the first episode of the third season of ‘Black Mirror’, entitled ‘Nosedive’. Dystopian or not, the truth is that we are still hypnotized with that little button.