TORONTO - Many Twitter users aren't feeling the love for the social network's new hearts, but digital media experts say disapproval over the move will be short-lived and will help create consistency with other online platforms.
The red heart icon has replaced the yellow star that was found below each tweet. Before the change, clicking the star meant a tweet was a "favourite." Now, clicking the heart means you "like" a tweet.
Twitter Inc. said Tuesday that the change was made because the star can confuse new users, and the heart is more universally known around the world. But the move received strong opposition among some users.
"Grr @twitter, I hate the favourite heart. Hate hate hate it. #MakeItGoAway" wrote @SazzyMCH.
"The @twitter star was like: that's cool, that's interesting, will revisit that later etc.," wrote @shero4hire. "The heart to me is like OMG! I friggin love this!!"
By incorporating hearts and likes, Twitter may simply be trying to make their platform more recognizable and user-friendly to newcomers, said Lowell Brown, CEO and social media adviser of Going Social.
"I don't know if there's a trend of people going away from Twitter for whatever reason; but I think they're trying to make things more consistent and easier for people to use in one form," said Brown, whose Toronto-based firm coaches, consults and manages social media for companies.
"I think people, in general, have trouble understanding why people use Twitter at first, and how to use it.... And once they get beyond that, a lot of people love it, some people don't.
"But I don't think the favourite button was one thing that would get in the way of that."
Joanna Cornish said the "star" icon was a unique aspect of Twitter, and she doesn't like the "idea of sameness" with using the heart emoji also featured on Facebook and Instagram.
"Within the realm of Twitter, I think people figured out the star pretty quickly," said Cornish, who has more than 2,000 followers.
"When you first join Twitter, it is pretty disconcerting; but it's not an impenetrable fortress that you can't figure out.
"I think if you give yourself a little bit of time, you start talking like people do on Twitter. You figure out what the language is within the social media platform pretty quickly. I don't think the star is that confusing."
Cornish writes posts about the Toronto Blue Jays on her blog humandchuck.com, and said she's previously used the "favourite" button as a way to acknowledge people who send nice tweets about her or her writing. She also used the tool as a way to bookmark a link within a tweet she wanted to read later.
"Me favouriting a tweet is not the same thing as saying this is my favourite kind of ice cream or these are my favourite shoes."
Aimee Morrison of the University of Waterloo said Twitter has long been concerned with its rate of growth and converting casual new users into systematic ones.
She noted that with Facebook — which has more than a billion users — more than half of people with accounts log on daily, according to 2012 research.
"I would say Twitter has nowhere near that level of engagement," said Morrison, an associate professor of English who works in digital humanities.
"Twitter has a whole lot of ghost accounts where people sign up, lurk for a little while, and they can't figure out why they should stay and what they should be doing, and they abandon their account."
As Twitter looks to develop new revenue models while growing their user base, it would make "a certain amount of economic sense" to try to become "a little bit more like Facebook," Morrison noted.
"The idea is that people in the tech world — academics, people who are already all over Twitter already — are so invested in the platform that they're not going to leave. They're going to complain for a couple of weeks and they're going to get over it.
"It's remaking itself to be easier to use for that user base that it doesn't already have."