Today, Twitter turned all your faves into likes, swapping out a star for a heart. This represents a huge and important paradigm shift in the world of technology and culture at large. Haha, okay. You got me! None of this shit matters. None of it! Or not to you, anyway.
In a blog post announcing the change, Twitter explained that it’s moving from stars to hearts because “not everything can be your favorite,” and because hearts have greater resonance in other cultures. That second part is a tech-changes-the-world-and-tears-down-walls way of saying, “Oh, shit, we gotta make money.”
Twitter reported third-quarter earnings last week; the company was never really something your stockbroker would’ve recommended as a surefire way to put your kids through college, but lately, things have been especially bleak. Earnings may have exceeded analysts expectations, but Twitter has also significantly reduced its financial projections for the next quarter. Meanwhile, just after the report, stock dropped by 10 percent, and in spite of a growth in revenue, the company took a $132 million loss in the third quarter after taxes. It grew from 316 million users to 320 million in that period, but that’s pretty flat. And would you look at that: It hasn’t added any new U.S. users this year at all. Twitter needs more people. And people like hearts.
Listen: Anything on Twitter is subject to change at any time at the whim of the folks running the show, if they think it’ll make it more “rewarding to use,” i.e. get more people clicking more buttons for longer periods of time. As CEO and former poet Jack Dorsey said in last week’s earnings call:
So on the road map going forward, we have a number of iterations that continue to make Twitter easier to understand and make it far more approachable than it has been in the past. And then we’re also looking at some more bold rethinking and some more bold experiences that really speak to some patterns that we’ve seen on Twitter from day one.
Faves didn’t even exist in the original iteration of Twitter: Upon introduction in 2011, Facebook’s burgeoning “like” empire was itself only two years old. Twitter wanted to do something different, and they did: Favs were a way for people to bookmark tweets about stuff they wanted to read later, or call something out sarcastically, or obliquely flirt, or dozens of other arcane and weirdly personal things. Since then, “like” has become less a tech-speak thing and more just how people talk, uh, IRL. A star could mean “good job” or “fuck you” or “I’ll come back and decide later,” but a heart pretty much means the same thing, to everyone, all the time.
In its nine years of existence, Twitter has added features and pulled others at will, always to great public outcry that fades within, oh, 48 hours or so. And it all goes back to the same thing: They need more people, and need to get less insider-y, in a real hurry. The site got a little less oblique today, and a little more boring, but from a business perspective, that’s exactly what they had to do. If only there were a button you could click to express your conflicted feelings about that.
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