We Almost Didn’t Have A Facebook Like Button. FB Engineers Wanted It To Be…


We see it everywhere — this little symbol has become a part of all our lives whether we “like” it or not. Yes, pun intended.

This little symbol with the thumbs up icon that we all know as the Facebook “Like” button is literally everywhere. Heck, you even see it on every website you go to — “like” this, “like” that, “like” everything.

It has become so common that we don’t give it a thought. But did you know that we almost didn’t have that “like” button?

Yes, that’s right. This came straight from a former Facebook Engineer. They originally wanted to call it the “Awesome Button.”

How do we know? A Quora user asked this question:

What’s the history of the Awesome Button (that eventually became the Like button) on Facebook?

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, a veteran at Facebook who was an engineer for the company from 2008-2012 gave the most detailed answer the user could ever ask for.

He went back to 2007. July 13, to be exact. He said the discussion was codenamed “Props”  between him and the other engineers. The discussion boiled down to thinking about what button to have and what to call it. Their options were to use stars, plus sign, or thumbs up, they originally planned to call it “Awesome.”

He ended his answer when Facebook launched the “like” button on February 9, 2009.

If you want to see his whole answer, here it is:

“July  13, 2007 – In the initial email discussion about a project codenamed  “Props” between me, Justin Rosenstein , Leah Pearlman, Ezra Callahan, and Akhil Wable, we boil down the discussion of symbols to:
 – stars (concern that it would translate to “I give this 1 star” which is a bad review)
 – plus sign (possibly accompanied with a minus sign, apropos to this discussion)
 – thumbs up (concern about internationalization, this is a bad sign in some places)
 We also consider lots of language and settle, temporarily, on “awesome.”

 July 17, 2007 – At a Hackathon,  Tom Whitnah, Justin Rosenstein,  Olaoluwa ‘Ola’ Okelola, Rebekah Cox and I build a working initial prototype of the “awesome button,” complete with integration into News Feed and Mini Feed.

 July 19, 2007 – the longer process of design begins with  Aaron SittigRebekah Cox, along with  Katie Geminder.

 July 31, 2007 – In a larger set of threads, the project builds a huge amount of interest:
 –  James Wang and platform product marketing are interested because of the potential to use awesome button to filter out bad application stories.
 – Feed team interested in improving feed ranking
 – Ads team interested in improving CTR

 August 17, 2007 –  Alexandre Roche delivers comprehensive design mocks.

 August 22, 2007 – the word “like” is proposed as a more universal term  but receives  a lukewarm response. We’ve become somewhat attached to  awesome and, comparatively, like seems bland.  Carolyn Abram starts  getting involved in language choices.

 September 26, 2007 – the project slows to a crawl as we search for a UI  that fits in too many places on the site (platform, adds, feed,  content).

 October 30, 2007 – Friendfeed adds “like” feature. As far as I can tell from my email archives, nobody at FB noticed. =/

 November 12, 2007 – Ready to launch and things appear to be all set but  final review with Zuck surprisingly doesn’t go well. Concerns about the  whether the interaction is public or private, cannibalizing from the  share feature, and potential conflict with Beacon. Feature development  as originally envisioned basically stops.

 November 14, 2007 – The feature is temporarily exposed to users due to a bug.

 December 2007 – November 2008 – The News Feed and Ads teams both launch small scale implementations that accept both positive and negative feedback but  apply that information privately to the user and do not share it  socially. The news feed system proves ineffective and is ultimately shut down. The ads team implementation worked on by Jared Morgenstern and Kent Schoen helps demonstrate that clicks do not always correlate with a user supplied quality score, which helps refine the ads system and drives confidence in a new signal.

 December 2008 – February, Jonathan Pines as lead engineer, Jared Morgenstern as product manager, and Soleio take on the project. The project was considered a cursed project because it had failed so many Zuck reviews. In order to combat that the team enlisted Itamar Rosenn to arm the team with data to prove the presence of a Like button did not take away from the number of the comments that a post received. In fact when the early tests came back it turned out that the presence of the Like button increased the number of comments due to how News Feed using Like as a signal for distribution. Roll out to 100% of users followed shortly.

 February 9, 2009 – Facebook launches “like” and Leah Pearlman writes her blog post  “I like this” to announce it to the world, recognizing her hard work at the inception of the project and her support throughout it. The world immediately accuses Facebook of stealing the idea from Friendfeed.”

Image via Pixabay.

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