Facebook tests big change to ‘likes’
Facebook users might soon say goodbye to "like" counts on the platform, in a bid to dissuade users from envy and self-censorship.
Developer and app researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted Facebook prototyping the hidden like counts in its Android app.
"I observed that Facebook has recently begun prototyping this hidden like/reaction count feature in their Android app by reverse-engineering the app and playing with the code underneath," Wong wrote in a blog post revealing her discovery.
"Currently, with this unreleased feature, the like/reaction count is hidden from anyone other than the creator of the post, just like how it works on Instagram.
"The list of people who liked/reacted will still be accessible, but the amount will be hidden."
Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that it is considering testing the removal of "like" counts. If it does go ahead, it will likely be a gradual process, and the platform is yet to publicly announce any plans.
Instagram is already testing the feature in seven countries, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand, showing a post's audience just a few names of mutual friends who've liked it instead of the total number.
Facebook Australia and New Zealand director of policy Mia Garlick said the platform should be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, rather than being judged.
"We hope this test will remove the pressure of how many likes a post will receive, so you can focus on sharing the things you love," she said in a statement.
While results from the Instagram trial haven't been revealed, more testing on its other platforms could suggest there is meaningful data that removing the publicly-displayed number of likes does not negatively impact the rate in which people engage with content.
Facebook has gradually been relegated to the place for sharing major life events like marriages and babies, so the removal might boost the platform's community focus.
Given its declining users, the move may also encourage people to keep sharing without fear of having smaller amounts of likes.