For years, people have been screaming at Twitter to make its favourite button more useful.
It's been there since the very start, but bar a tiny amount of people using it as a bookmarking tool or others using it to "tip their hat" at good content, the feature has largely been ignored.
Today, though, the social network bowed to public opinion – it's rolled out a new 'Like' button, replacing the Star with a Heart, and following in the vein of Periscope (which it owns), Instagram and of course Facebook.
Here is why they did it...
1. A Facebook-Style Algorithmic Feed
While Twitter's simplicity appealed to techies and geeks in the early days, it's stopped growing of late.
Part of this is because, unless you put in a lot of work following people and curating your feed, you won't get great content coming back. With this update – and people telling Twitter what they "love" – Twitter can move towards a more algorithmic curation of their feed.
Like Manchester United and U2 on a regular enough basis and Twitter could start showing you that content as soon as you arrive – instead of stuff you followed but don't really love.
— Twitter (@Twitter) November 3, 2015
2. More Data For Advertisers
One of the big problems that Twitter has is that it doesn't know all that much about its users – certainly not as much as Facebook or Google – and this update will help address that.
With people liking stuff from their favourite celebs, sports teams and brands Twitter will be able to paint a much better data-driven picture of their users.
Think about how the notifications drag people back into the site on Facebook or Instagram.
While power users might get a lot of notifications on Twitter, more passive users simply won't. With people starting to 'heart' content, that creates a viral satisfaction loop that drags users back into the site. Everybody loves seeing a heart or a like, meaning they'll come back more often.
Instagram copies Twitter Moments, Twitter replaces ????favorites with ❤️likes. So much innovation in tech. https://t.co/5PyrhuTdqn
— Dare Obasanjo (@Carnage4Life) November 3, 2015
4. Increased Content
Another issue that Twitter has is that beyond media, celebs and power-users, the regular user on the street might not contribute a lot of content.
Social networks work best with tons of content spilling in, and the hearts give feedback to users so that they'll feel more confident in their contributions.
I've noticed my own Twitter output decrease of late but as my hearts start pouring in and I learn what people love I'll start pushing more content out. More hearts equals more content for Twitter.
Twitter bowing to pressure to appeal to mainstream, not caring how power users use faves for bookmarking.
— Mahendra Palsule (@ScepticGeek) November 3, 2015
5. Platform Uniformity
The heart function has been one of the main drivers of growth on Periscope – and anybody who has used that service will tell you just how addictive they are.
Twitter is rolling these hearts out across Vine, Periscope and all Twitter clients (such as Tweetdeck, etc).
The heart button is, of course, on Instagram – and one of the best features they've had is the double tap to heart. I wouldn't be surprised to see that copied and the same thing happening in relation to photos, gifs and Vines.
6.Attracting New Users
Power users are all going mad at this move, complaining that to bookmark something now means they will have to 'love' it. It also throws up questions about bad news stories and how you bookmark them (nobody wants to love a murder, after all – hence why Facebook recently introduced Reactions).
Non-power users won’t have a clue what a favourite is, however, and have probably been ignoring the functionality – and given how social etiquette on these channels is so intricate, users can be slow to 'take chances' with buttons they don't understand.
Having seen the heart all around the web, however, they'll be immediately comfortable by clicking on the heart. It's safe, it's familiar and it tells us a lot about the future of Twitter.