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Facebook mulls dropping public like counts? Instagram ‘experiment’ spreads to parent platform

Facebook mulls dropping public like counts? Instagram ‘experiment’ spreads to parent platform
Facebook is experimenting with hiding “like” counts from public view, according to a researcher who uncovered a similar test by Instagram. While the company admits it plans to test the feature, it won’t say when, where, or why.

Facebook is already hiding likes for some users, researcher Jane Manchun Wong claimed on Monday, noting that the company’s Android app had quietly rolled out the interface tweak. While Facebook has admitted it plans to experiment with removal of public like counts, it declined to share when and where the test would begin – or why it was being done in the first place.

The like-free version of the interface shows reactions and the names of friends who have reacted, but no numbers are visible except to the user who made the post. It echoes a similar experiment rolled out by Facebook’s Instagram earlier this year – starting in Canada and expanding to six more countries in July. Facebook has so far refused to discuss the results of Instagram like-hiding, but it would seem they are positive if it has opted to test the tweak on its flagship platform.

While some have framed the removal of like counts as Facebook being concerned with its users’ mental health – users may become competitive regarding engagement, or avoid sharing if they feel the post will not receive enough reactions – others see the move as an effort by Facebook to hide its declining popularity. With fewer people on the platform, there are fewer “likes” to be had for everyone.

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Facebook’s number of active users began declining last year among all US demographics, according to a study by Edison Research and Triton Digital, and the platform has seen its population of users under 25 decline especially rapidly, losing 2.8 million users in that age group in the US alone in 2017, according to EMarketer. Facebook also began losing European users last year, a reality acknowledged by the company itself in its third-quarter earnings call for 2018. Instagram, however, has not suffered the same decline in popularity, though its parent company’s recent decision to brand the platform as “Instagram by Facebook” means the reputational stink from years of privacy scandals could start to tarnish the popular subsidiary’s brand.

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