How Facebook’s Like Button Broke the 2010s
The button became the social currency of the decade
The change was subtle but consequential. It came with advance notice from Facebook in March 2010, when the company quietly warned its advertisers that it would be updating the language on one of its most prominent features. If you were a brand, a business, a public figure, or anyone else who operated a Facebook page, you would longer have “fans,” technically speaking. Instead, the little button that invited people to become a fan of your page would now use a cooler, simpler term: “like.”
For Facebook users already accustomed to frequent and dizzying feature updates, it was a confounding alteration. “So what do we call Facebook fans now? Likers?” puzzled one blogger.
But this semantic shift was not another example of Facebook moving fast and breaking things. It was part of a deliberate strategy to make its like button—released just 13 months earlier—the focal point of Facebook’s efforts to rewire the web itself. The next step came a month later, when Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of a social plugin that would allow anyone to add like buttons to their own websites. The goal? To put Facebook’s 400 million users at the center of our collective online experiences, with the like button as the glue holding it all together.
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