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The Alternative to ‘Like’ That Facebook Never Let You See

By Bianca Bosker

The long-coveted “dislike” button may never make its way Facebook. But a Facebook engineer said  that the social network has informally experimented with an alternative to “like”: specifically, the “sympathize” button.

Facebook’s members have for years demanded a less cheery way to quickly respond to friends’ posts, pointing out that “liking” becomes awkward and inappropriate when someone posts about a breakup, a death or even just a bad day.

The social network evidently hears their complaints: During a Facebook hackathon held “a little while back,” an engineer devised a “sympathize” button that would accompany gloomier status updates, according to Dan Muriello, a different Facebook engineer who described the hackathon experiment at a company event. If someone selected a negative emotion like “sad” or “depressed” from Facebook’s fixed list of feelings, the “like” button would be relabeled “sympathize.”

Playing around with a “sympathize” button at a hackathon — a chance for staffers to brainstorm new ideas for site features — hardly guarantees it’ll pop up in feeds soon. The social network relies on its hackathons to explore out-of-the-box ideas, many of which never materialize.

Muriello said his colleague’s creation was well-received by fellow Facebookers, but isn’t making its way to the site. For now.

“It would be, ‘five people sympathize with this,’ instead of ‘five people ‘like’ this,’” said Muriello. “Which of course a lot of people were — and still are — very excited about. But we made a decision that it was not exactly the right time to launch that product. Yet.”

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