CNBC reports that the announcement was made during a public Q&A session held in Menlo Park, California, yesterday. The feature has been a topic of discussion for years and strong arguments both for and against its existence have emerged during that time.
Zuckerberg said the dislike button is not intended to represent a simple “downvote” action like the options available in forums including Reddit. He explained that such an ability “doesn’t seem like the kind of community that we want to create,” indicating how “downvote” implies negativity and dismissal.
Instead, the dislike button will be a way to express different emotions and forms of sympathy on the social network. It overcomes the issue of people wanting to show support for potentially uncomfortable topics but being discouraged from doing so by not wanting to suggest they “like” the content.
It seems as though the button will be more a “I agree with this but it doesn’t make me happy” control than “I don’t like this” or “I don’t like you.” Zuckerberg explained its typical usage, saying: “If you are sharing something that is sad… then it may not feel comfortable to ‘like’ that post.”
The new feature is already in development and Facebook is “very close” to launching it in a restricted test mode. Zuckerberg said that implementing it on the site has turned out to be “surprisingly complicated.”
The addition of a dislike button has always been one of the most requested changes to Facebook. Zuckerberg acknowledged “probably hundreds of people have asked about this,” adding “today is a very special day because today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.”
Details on what the buttons will look like on the site remain unknown. They may not even accompany all content as disliking advertisements or promoted news stories isn’t likely to please Facebook.
The company also has to work around one of the biggest arguments from the “anti-dislike” group who have consistently campaigned that such a button could facilitate easy online harassment. Although the feature is intended to show some respect for a topic, it could be exploited and used maliciously, something that Facebook is keen to avoid.