Twitter ditches stars for hearts to become less confusing to newbies

Because that's what's confusing about Twitter: the stars.

Every social network has a way of letting you show that you like, love, or agree with a post. Facebook has the thumbs-up sign. Instagram has hearts. Since 2006, Twitter has used bright yellow stars, known to users as favorites, to let people show appreciation for tweets. But the platform is under pressure to add new users and prove it’s not just a torrential flood of news that’s impossible to keep up with, so its new solution: replace stars with hearts.

twitter hearts web

The difference between hearting this baked potato and marking it as my favorite is huge.

Twitter product manager Akarshan Kumar outlined the reasoning behind the move from favorites to likes in a Tuesday blog post:

“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. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.”

OK, that’s not exactly how the stars work—users fave tweets they like, yes, but they also use the star to acknowledge a tweet without responding and to save a tweet to refer to later. But Kumar continues:

“The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.”

Twitter owns live-streaming app Periscope, which uses hearts to let viewers show their appreciation for a live-stream. That’s useful for broadcasters, because they can see animated hearts bubble up to the top of the screen as affirmation that people tuning in like what they see. Now the network is bringing hearts to Twitter and Vine to “make them the common language for our global community.” Twitter is updating its apps for iOS, Android, and Windows 10, its website, and TweetDeck with the new method of liking tweets. Twitter for Mac and Vine for iOS will be updated soon, the company said.

Why this matters: Twitter is making itself more like Facebook and Instagram in an effort to be a more welcoming place to newcomers, who are familiar with the shorthand on other social networks but not with Twitter’s bizarre insider language. But stars versus hearts is not the battle Twitter should be fighting. There are other, more pressing issues that the company could address to make the platform easier to use. Now Twitter risks alienating its core base of power users like journalists, who use the favorite button to bookmark tweets they want to save or articles they want to read later. In that way, a star functions differently from a heart. And Facebook is now moving away from the straightforward like button by testing emoji reactions after users requested more options for responding to posts.

Is Twitter moving in the right direction with this new feature? What do you think Twitter should do to become a better network? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Caitlin McGarry

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