Twitter Doesn't Need 'Like'. Friendfeed's Like Is Dumb. Twitter Needs 'Share'

Twitter’s API Lead Alex Payne has been speaking at the Twitter 140 Conference and I’ve already written today about his announcement that Twitter might be adding geo-referencing data to all tweets – you can vote on my poll about this here.

Alex also mentioned that Twitter will add a new feature similar to the ‘like’ option on Friendfeed and Facebook, which lets users vote up a submission. Twitter already has a ‘favourite’ feature which allows us to save any tweets we desire (I keep all my ‘links of the day’ in mine) but it’s not heavily-used by members, possibly because it isn’t heavily profiled. There’s been a lot of talk on Friendfeed about how good their ‘like’ feature is to Twitter’s ‘favourites’, and as Robert Scoble, arguably the single-greatest Friendfeed advocate on the planet, took the interview with Alex Payne, one has to wonder who did most of the pitching. 😉

(Alex also stated that Twitter might be adding comments to tweets, which is also a feature on Friendfeed and Facebook, as well as Plurk. I’m fine with this, although I’d very much prefer if it came in threaded messaging format, with a reply link on each comment, as on Friendfeed in particular long runs of responses can be a real pain to follow.)

Here’s my concern, though: the ‘like’ feature is dumb. Really dumb.

It’s dumb on Friendfeed, and it’s even dumber on Facebook, where users regularly ‘like’ things like plane crashes, bomb explosions, the death of Mike Tyson’s daughter and many other tragedies. Depeche Mode fans seem to like the cancellation of concerts, and I also regularly see people liking things that are about them, or that they have written and others have then submitted. Keep that ego in check, won’t you?

It’s not really their fault, as the ‘like’ is essentially the only option they have. But grammatically, and in any reasonable measure of decency when it concerns traumatic events, like is a major fail.

Twitter doesn’t need a like. What it needs is a share.

What Twitter also doesn’t need is to completely scrap the favourites idea. Favourites, in principle, works fine – the problem is that Twitter has never pushed this feature, and for fairly obvious reasons. It’s too one-dimensional. It’s nice to be able to save things for later, but it’s better if anything you’ve saved automatically becomes a recommendation for your network, too.

What Twitter needs to do is repackage or re-code the favourites feature so that all the saves are crawled and indexed. They could then take this data and re-format it so we could see recommendations in various ways. For example:

  • By network
  • By demographic
  • By location
  • By hour, day, week, month etc
  • By keyword filter

And so on. This would make favourites as powerful and relevant as Twitter search. It could run happily alongside Twitter’s trending feature, or even replace it (as right now it’s really quite useless). It’d be as useful a barometer as re-tweets. I’m not sure when the favourites feature was added to the platform, but there’s a ton of data there just waiting to be mined. Why waste all that effort? Nothing worse than giving people something to use and then pulling the rug from underneath them just because a few folk have complained.

And heck, I don’t care if they rename it – that’s not the point at all. Indeed, it makes sense to call it ‘share’, because that will encourage people to do this. And the more people that use it, the more informative that data will become.

But Twitter, please: don’t call it ‘like’. Like and share are not the same thing. Not all news is good news. Not everything comes with my two thumbs of approval. In fact, few things do, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re important and worthy of the attention of others. This might ultimately be an issue of semantics, but it’s an important one. If I get a like, I want a ‘dislike’, too. But I’d rather have neither.

Like is dumb. Like is a fail. Share is a win. Twitter needs share.

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