Likes No Longer Public: X Revamps User Experience

  • 22 May 2024 |
  • Giselle Blackwood

It's official: X, previously known as Twitter, is going to hide the "Likes" tab for all users. The change aims to give people more privacy, freeing them from the fear of public judgment regarding the posts and content they endorse. By making this shift, X is reassuring users that they can engage more freely on the platform without worrying about potential fallout from trolls. The news came as somewhat of a surprise, but its implications are significant.

X News Daily was the first to identify the change, with the sudden disappearance of the “Likes” tab from user profiles. This move was soon confirmed by X engineer Haofei Wang, who emphasized the platform’s intent to promote genuine interaction. Wang explained that public likes often deter users from engaging with content they find interesting or valuable but feel might convey the wrong message. The aim is clear: to eliminate that hesitancy and foster a more liberating environment for all users.

From a technical standpoint, this shift has a dual purpose. On one hand, it shields users from scrutiny, allowing them to like posts without the fear of revealing their preferences to the public eye. On the other hand, this freedom is expected to increase the amount of liked content, enhancing the data feeding into X’s algorithms. More engagement signals will help X refine its "For You" feed, making it more personalized and relevant. In theory, this sounds like a win-win, but not everyone sees it that way.

Critics argue that removing public likes could have unintended consequences. By hiding this information, X may inadvertently encourage users to endorse more controversial or questionable content. The platform's algorithm will then pick up these signals and amplify such posts, possibly fuelling negative trends and behaviors. The idea that users need privacy to freely like certain types of content raises concerns about what kind of material they feel compelled to hide. Whether this move will genuinely enhance user experience or backfire remains to be seen.

This shift isn't entirely out of the blue. Last year, X introduced an option for paying users to hide their likes, a feature often utilized by individuals anxious about public perception. Elon Musk, the platform’s owner, has also faced backlash over his own likes, which has added to the controversy surrounding this decision. Yet, expanding this option to all users could encourage broader engagement across the platform. Musk and his team seem committed to seeing if the benefits of user freedom outweigh the potential pitfalls.

While some welcome this move as a step forward for digital privacy, others caution that it might amplify divisive opinions. After all, algorithms respond to user activity without moral judgment. Whether this will help X create a more inclusive environment or exacerbate division is anyone's guess. As we wait to see whether Musk's gamble pays off, what’s clear is that X is willing to take bold steps to retain and boost user engagement. For now, the jury is still out on whether this will be a genius move or a complex conundrum.