Twitter’s “favorite” button, the service’s primary way for users to signal agreement, acknowledgement, laughter, support, and occasionally (and perversely!) utter hatred, is officially dead. The company said today that it is replacing favorites with “likes,” to be represented in its apps and on the web by red heart icons.

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The changes, which also apply to Twitter-owned Vine, represent the company’s latest effort to simplify the user experience as it looks to attract new users. “We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers,” product manager Akarshan Kumar said in a blog post. “You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”

Favorites were born in 2006, around the dawn of Twitter. As best as I can tell, they pre-date both Tumblr’s red hearts, which arrived toward the end of 2008, and Facebook’s “like” button, which was introduced in 2009. Favorites were initially designed as a way of bookmarking tweets — a feature that feels fairly insane for a service whose messages are limited to 140 characters and (at the time) could not include photos or videos. But from the start, third-party developers sought to make the feature more useful. A service called Favrd sprung up to highlight popular tweets in real time based on the number of favorites, and it quickly became popular among the newly minted profession of Twitter humorists. (Favrd closed in 2009 after the emergence of Favstar, a more robust competitor that endures to this day.)


Today, a star is unborn. After testing hearts this summer, Twitter is now rolling them out across the user base. I’m told tests showed that people who had hearts enabled on their accounts used them more often, and I believe it: likes and hearts have become a kind of universal currency of the social web, from Facebook to Tumblr to Instagram. And there’s probably some benefit to Twitter in having a standard icon of approval across its suite of apps — Vine previously used a smiley face, and Periscope debuted with hearts. Now they’ll all be the same, and perhaps a bit more comprehensible to all the new people Twitter hopes to lure in with Moments and other products.

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