Facebook to launch Dislike button – but it isn't what you think

As the social media giant caves in to public pressure, here's what you need to know about the new button.

During a question-and-answer session streamed live on Facebook (which you can see in the video above), CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that it's testing alternatives to the 'Like' button.

"People have asked about the 'dislike' button for many years," Zuckerberg said. "Probably hundreds of people have asked about this. And today is a special day because today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it."

But don't worry – Facebook isn't going to become a massive fight club where everyone disses or votes down each other's postings.

Zuckerberg went on to explain that the new button will be for time when clicking 'like' on sad posts would feel insensitive.

Sad face

"We don't want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people's posts," he said. "That doesn't seem like the kind of community we want to create.

"People aren't looking for an ability to downvote other people's posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment, right?

Artist's impression of what a Facebook dislike would look like. Hurts, doesn't it?

"And if you are sharing something that is sad, whether it's something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you or if a family member passed away, then it might not feel comfortable to Like that post."

That makes perfect sense to us: whenever someone reports the death of a child and you see someone has 'Liked this', it does seem a little weird.

Of course, there could be grounds for confusion the other way. If, say, someone writes a sympathetic post about the plight of the Syrian refugees and someone 'Dislikes' it, are they disliking the sympathy shown to the refugees or disliking the situation the refugees are in?

However, it's still early days. Zuckerberg revealed only that the company has "an idea" of what the button will be and that it's about to start testing – it's even unclear whether it will be called 'Dislike' or something else entirely. Watch this space...

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Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and technology. He was previously associate editor at Creative Bloq and deputy editor at net magazine, the world’s best-selling magazine for web designers. Over two decades in journalism he’s worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella. Follow him on Twitter @tom_may.