Twitter Developers Exchange Stars for Hearts

November 24, 2015 - 3 minutes read

Twitter heartsTwitter turned ten this year. Like dog years, startup years tend to fly by quickly — as any experienced iPhone app developer will be quick to report. As growth slows down compared to industry competitors like Instagram and Facebook, Twitter is experiencing some very public growing pains.

With over 300 million users, Twitter may not be going anywhere, but CEO Jack Dorsey seems awfully concerned about the encroaching market share of social media behemoths like Facebook and Instagram — so much so that the company has exchanged their trademark “fav” stars for Instagram-esque “heart” icons. Needless to say, reactions from veteran users have been far from positive, ranging from amused disbelief from casual users to red-in-the-face outrage from San Francisco iPhone app developers. (All expressed in 140 characters or less, of course.)

Twitter justifies the change as a move towards making the platform more friendly to newcomers. Compared to a star, says a company statement, “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.”

However, since the function still stores favorited/liked tweets away on user profiles, many users have expressed disappointment about a lack of meaning implied by a heart as opposed to a like.

Twitter was quoted in a report by TechCrunch stating that:

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

The trouble with this is that it’s the ambiguity of the Twitter fav, in part, that makes Twitter’s user interaction unique. While it’s true that a “like” expresses appreciation of a share clearly, favs on the other hand can express everything fro a bookmark to a wink to a high-five. Some users bookmark everything they see, communicating “I see you.” Others only fav tweets they feel are important, using the feature as a curation tool.

While it appears to users that the shift from stars to hearts is copycatting plain and simple, the combined effect alongside other changes (like getting rid of DM character limits) signals a new mobile app strategy developed to take a share of the messaging market, as Facebook has done quite effectively. Whether or not the new strategy will successfully draw new users to the platform, however, will depend in large part on balancing veteran user expectations with social media UI best practices.

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