Facebook users—we few, we chatty few, we 1.5 billion—finally gained the option to “dislike” a post on Wednesday, though it wasn’t with the thumbs-down icon that many have long envisioned.
Rather, the ability to express unhappiness came as a few of six options available to users through a new Facebook feature called emoji reactions. Someone can now respond to any post on Facebook with a heart for “love,” a laughing face for “haha,” an astonished gape for “wow,” a tearful frown for “sad,” a reddening face for “angry,” or a good ol’ reliable thumbs-up for “like.”
Since the News Feed is Facebook’s “homepage” both on desktop browsers and phone apps, this feature might be the most substantive single change to the company’s flagship product since its abortive attempt to replace email in 2010. Facebook is now more colorful and more cartoonish than it’s ever been.
The feature also echoes a similar reaction scheme rolled out by Slack, the Silicon Valley darling that makes business software, last summer. In all its smiling (or crying) verve, Facebook’s new reactions show that icons and GIFs (whether on Twitter or on Tinder) are taking over more and more of the communication that was previously done with text online.