Anick Jesdanun

NEW YORK: Facebook’s “like” button isn’t going away, but it’s about to get some company.

Facebook has been testing alternatives to “like” in about a half-dozen countries, including Ireland, Spain and Japan. On Wednesday, Facebook started making “haha,” “angry” and three other responses available in the United States and the rest of the world.

In changing a core part of Facebook — the 7-year-old “like” button has become synonymous with the social network — the company said it tried to keep things familiar. The thumbs-up “like” button will look just as it long has, without the other choices cluttering the screen or confusing people. You have to hold that button or mouse over the “like” link for a second or two for the alternatives to pop up.

Facebook chose to offer more nuanced reactions — “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad” and “angry” — alongside “like” — to give users “greater control over their expressivity,” said Julie Zhuo, Facebook’s product design director.

For instance, when a friend posts that his father has died, or a cousin gets frustrated with her morning commute, hitting “like” might seem insensitive.

Facebook went through comments on friends’ posts, as well as emoji-like stickers people were using. It chose the most common ones and tested those. Facebook considered dozens of reactions — but offering them all would have been confusing.

Facebook ultimately chose the six reactions for their universal appeal — something that could be understood around the world. Even a generic happy face “was a little bit ambiguous and harder for people to understand,” Zhuo said.

She said people click on “like” more than a billion times a day, so “we didn’t want to make that any harder.” It’s still the go-to reaction for most posts. But Zhuo said in the countries tested, people used the alternatives more frequently over time.

The rollout is expected to take a few days to complete. You’ll get the feature automatically on Web browsers, but you’ll need to update your app on iPhones and Android devices (no word yet on Windows and BlackBerry).

Why did it take Facebook so long to get here? Besides deciding on how many and which specific reactions to offer, Facebook needed to figure out the right way for people to discover and use it. For instance, a menu might have been harder to find, while offering all six buttons up front might have made it harder to just quickly “like” a post and move on. Zhuo said CEO Mark Zuckerberg pushed for the long-press method as a balance.

The feature is expected to evolve over time, and Facebook may add or change choices based on feedback.