Does the internet need a dislike button?
Image: Valter Bispo/The Noun Project

Does the internet need a dislike button?

Source Code

Good morning! This Friday, the cost of hiding dislikes, Google Labs is sort of back, and MoviePass is really back.

Two thumbs … down

The "like" button has become an internet staple, a relatively standardized way to express some sort of positive reaction across all sorts of platforms. You can like a Facebook post, a Spotify song, a YouTube video, a tweet, a Netflix show, even an email in Outlook. They all do slightly different things, but the gist is always the same. You can even "like" bad news or something else you actually dislike, and people get it.

The dislike is more controversial than the like. Facebook never added one, even as it offered more reactions than just likes. But platforms like Reddit have long embraced the idea, using downvotes as a core mechanism for ranking what's good and what isn't. YouTube also put the thumbs-down front and center. Is it a game-able system? Sure. But so is everything on the internet.

YouTube rocked the web this week when it announced it was ditching the dislike. Or, at least, the public dislike count.

  • The company ran an experiment earlier this year where it hid the dislike count, so users could click the thumbs-down but wouldn't see how many others had done the same. And apparently, it liked the outcome. "Today, we announced that based on experiment results, we're moving forward with making the public dislike count private across YouTube," the company announced this week.
  • The logic for the change is pretty simple. From YouTube's support page: "We believe that this is the right thing to do for our platform — to better protect creators from harassment, help ensure smaller creators and those just getting started can thrive, and to create an inclusive and respectful environment where creators have the opportunity to succeed and feel safe to express themselves."

The upside of dislikes is that they're an incredibly powerful signal. You might scroll past or skip over something for lots of reasons, but to say "I don't like this" requires enough intentional work that it sends a powerful signal that can be used in algorithmic ranking. That's why Twitter has been testing downvotes — which aren't even shown to the original tweeter, they're just a signal to the system — and even Facebook has a button where you can choose to "See fewer posts like this."

Over time, there's been a broad push toward hiding numbers like these more broadly. Instagram has experimented with hiding like counts on posts, for example, based on the idea that those numbers turn into contests and can make people feel bad. And since those tools still exist, creators get feedback and Instagram can still use them as signals for algorithmic ranking. Everybody wins, right?

But there's a convincing case for showing these numbers: They're one of the few signals users get about what's good and what isn't.

  • "Here's the thing about the like and dislike count," YouTuber Marques Brownlee said in a video on Thursday. "When you put them together, it forms a ratio, and that ratio is the immediately glanceable piece of information that I can look at when I arrive on a video, to know if it's going to be worth my time to watch it or not."
  • In general, platforms give users very little signal about the quality of the content they're seeing, or why they're seeing it. Letting users signal — to creators and each other — what's good and what isn't goes a long way.

The debate here seems to come down to transparency. The internet increasingly feels categorized and ranked in unknowable ways, and presented to users who aren't allowed to make choices with anything other than their attention. Giving people a chance to express what they want more proactively, and to help others find the good and avoid the bad, does feel like an important and useful thing. And there must be a way to do that without subjecting creators to dislike brigades and harassment. Otherwise we're stuck trusting the recommendation engine ... and we know how that goes.

— David Pierce (email | twitter)

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

"This year alone, 4-H teens will educate more than 50,000 adults across 18 states. By introducing these skills early, we are helping to build the pipeline of young people who will be ready for today's jobs." - Jennifer Sirangelo, National 4-H Council

Learn more

People are talking

Rivian is bound to grow, but maybe not as explosively as meme stocks like Tesla, said Reilly Brennan, a general partner at VC firm Trucks:

  • "Inherently there's a quiet storm aspect of Rivian's growth over the next few years, which is utterly fascinating."

On Protocol | China: Chinese crypto entrepreneur Yan Suji thinks Singapore is an upcoming crypto hub:

  • "There's nothing promised by the Singaporean government. But there's something promising."

India's booming startup market is just the beginning, Paytm's Vijay Shekhar Sharma said:

  • "If we go by anything that happened in the U.S., China or other parts of the world, including Indonesia, India is an opportunity which will dwarf many other countries."

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez wants to give residents a "bitcoin yield," part of a bigger effort to make the currency more relevant:

  • "We want you to hold bitcoin, but we also want to increase the utility of bitcoin."

Making moves

Telesat wants to IPO. The company is spending $5 billion on a satellite project to expand broadband access.

The name "Google Labs" is returning as an org within the company, focusing on "high-potential, long-term" projects. Clay Bavor, a VP who's worked on the company's AR and VR efforts, will lead the group.

Getir is entering the U.S. The grocery-delivery company based in Turkey is starting operations in Chicago first and will eventually expand.

The NSO Group's pick for CEO stepped down. The Israeli spyware firm had chosen Isaac Benbenisti last month as its next leader.

Toshiba is splitting into three companies. After a brutal last few years, it will become a memory company, an energy infrastructure company and a devices company.

Chiang Shang-Yi left Semiconductor Manufacturing International. He joined the chipmaker last December and is resigning to spend more time with family.

Stephen Luczo is retiring from Seagate Technology's board. He's held several top roles at the data storage firm over the years, including CEO and COO.

In other news

Alibaba had a successful Singles' Day. People bought nearly $85 billion worth of merchandise on the platform during the shopping festival, proving that the ecommerce giant can thrive despite Chinese regulators' attempts to tear it all up.

MoviePass is making a comeback. That movie ticket subscription service may sound like a distant memory, but its co-founder Stacy Spikes hopes to bring it back sometime next year. Luckily, he knows all its flaws — and potential — all too well.

Tech is no match for online child sex abuse. A nonprofit called WeProtect Global Alliance wrote in a report that CSAM is not long gone, but is becoming more prevalent online. And more difficult for tech companies to address. (We accidentally included this story yesterday, before we published the story. It's live now.)

Facebook doesn't want the word "bias" to get lost in translation. At least that's what it told employees, presumably with the intention of avoiding legal trouble, according to internal documents.

Richard Kyanka died, Vice reported. He founded the comedy website Something Awful, which was an internet sensation in the early 2000s.

Spotify is getting into audiobooks. It bought Findaway, an audiobook publisher, and plans to start putting books in the app early next year for when you don't feel like singing in the car.

DiDi's trying to be its old self again, sources told Bloomberg. The ride-hailing company hopes to bring back its apps sometime this year as the government prepares to end its investigation, and finalize penalties, by December.

Universal Music Group is forming an NFT band. It will turn four NFTs into a band called Kingship, which will release music and take part in the metaverse. Sounds like a masterpiece.

Subaru does EVs now. The company is relatively late to the growing market and introduced Solterra, an SUV that came out of a two-year project with Toyota.

The (Amazon Prime) gift that just keeps giving

The worst part about sending a gift is having to remember the recipient's address. But Amazon Prime has a new feature that lets you send a present with only someone's email address and phone number.

By clicking on "add gift receipt for easy returns," you can choose a button that says "let the recipient provide their address." The person receiving the present will get a notification about the gift, which they can accept or decline. Now you have no excuses not to exchange presents with your long-distance friends and family.

A MESSAGE FROM 4-H

"All people — no matter their background or zip code — deserve equal access to tech tools, resources and training to help them prosper and thrive in today's digital world." - Rose Stuckey Kirk, Verizon

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

Recent Issues

AWS is all grown up

Why Jack really left