What's in a name? What's the difference between a heart and a star, a handshake and a hug, a 'favorite' and a 'like'? Really, when you break it down, probably a lot, but regardless, Twitter, effective immediately, is changing its 'star' icon for favorites to a heart - a move which has sparked much response from the Twitter community.
The heart doesn't quite say "yes, I saw your tweet, but I have no intention of replying now go away"- Elon Green (@elongreen) November 3, 2015
Ugh Twitter turning fave stars into hearts just upgraded every "good tweet, champ" to a "YES YES THIS TWEET HAS WON MY ETERNAL DEVOTION!"- mah ree nah (@marinarachael) November 3, 2015
Next, Twitter will add hearts to all of your lower-case i's.- Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) November 3, 2015
@twitter Can we talk about this for a second?- Nina Mandell (@ninamandell) November 3, 2015
So why would Twitter do this? The same reason Twitter does anything these days - to attract new users - from the Twitter blog:
"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."
It seems strange that the use of favorites would be a key confusion factor among new users, but nevertheless, that's the logic given. Twitter goes on to say the heart, by 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."
As we reported back in August, when the first tests of the heart option were seen in the wild, while it may seem like a minor point - who really cares if it's a 'heart' of a 'star'? - the change actually does matter to many users. Thomas Ricker, a writer for The Verge, noted that:
"Stars and hearts are not synonymous. To star something is to measure its quality. To heart something is to emote it. [...] To change the icon would change the very meaning of a favorited tweet."
While Next Web writer Lauren Hockenson said:
"The star has also lead many to use the "Favorite" tool in different ways, as stars aren't entirely tied to a human emotion. You can fave something on Twitter to tell someone you read their tweet, that you like their tweet, or just that it's worth saving for later. These myriad intentions could diminish with the introduction of the heart or something similar, specifically because there's emotion and intention tied to the heart. It means you like something. You can't hate-fave something if you're giving your enemy a heart."
On the flip side, there are others, like high-profile Twitter investor Chris Sacca, who believe the move to hearts is a great idea:
"If Twitter integrated a simple heart gesture into each Tweet, engagement across the entire service would explode."
Twitter will be hoping Sacca's right, and as noted, in testing they've found people to be receptive to the change.
The shift to hearts moves Twitter more in-line with Periscope (and worth noting, both Twitter and Vine will be switching to hearts, making it the universal measurement across all Twitter properties), but it also seems to be a nod to Facebook - Facebook-owned Instagram uses Hearts as a response mechanism, while the re-naming of favorites to 'Likes' obviously sounds very Facebook-esque. And that makes sense - if Twitter's trying to appeal to the widest possible audience and utilize a response option that's more universally recognized and understood, going with what they use on Facebook is probably the best option, Facebook does have the largest user base, after all.
But then again, Facebook uses Likes as their main indicator, a measure which is much more closely aligned to a 'favorite' than a heart. Worth noting too that Facebook is, of course, introducing their own new range of ways for people to respond to content with Reactions, a much requested addition over the years - though, interestingly, the main knock on Reactions thus far has been that they're not comprehensive enough, which kind of suggests that Facebook may have been better off sticking with the Like and leaving it at that.
However you look at it, Twitter's shift to hearts is significant, and will change how people use the function to signal their response. It also might mean that you'll have to take extra care when scrolling through your timeline - as noted by BuzzFeed, accidental favorites might get a lot more awkward now that they're hearts.
(Image via BuzzFeed)
But the key question is will the change improve Twitter's translation to new users and help those unfamiliar with the platform get a better grip on how to manage the tweet stream? At first glance, the impact would seem minor in this regard, but then again, a recent study by FiveThirtyEight found that hearts are already the most popular emoji on Twitter, and by a big margin.
The heart is also one of the most commonly used emoji overall, and considering emoji use has been on a major upward curve in recent times, maybe moving in-line with this wider trend makes logical sense - if not for current users, for the next generation coming through.
The graph shows use of emoji on Instagram over time (source: Instagram)
Maybe, having that simple, added level of familiarity will make Twitter just that extra bit more relatable, and get new users onto the platform as a result.
Twitter's switch from stars to hearts comes into effect from today for everything except Vine for iOS and Twitter for Mac. Some users have also reported that the change hasn't flowed through to Tweetdeck as yet - so if you'd prefer to stick with stars for a bit longer, you can stay on deck and avoid the love-fest. In a separate post, on the Twitter Developer blog, the platform has also detailed how the change will impact those using Twitter's REST and streaming APIs.