Space & Innovation

A Brief, Biased History of Social Media Reaction Buttons

We're well beyond the simple Like button for social media content now. Smiling-blushing-yay-face! Continue reading →

Facebook just rolled out a bunch of new emotions that users can choose for reacting to updates that include love, haha, yay, wow, sad, and angry icons.

We've clearly come a long way from the classic "Like" in our quest for the ultimate social media shorthand. From the controversial Twitter heart to the dumpling emoji, let's take a look back at how our emotional iconography popped up.

40 Years of the Cell Phone: Photos

Although rumors swirled about a Facebook "Dislike" button for a while, the social network giant said last fall it wouldn't go in that direction. The reaction icons just released globally are intended to help users show empathy instead of pure negativity.

Believe it or not but there was a span of three years before Facebook even had a "Like" button. At first, Mark Zuckerberg didn't actually go for the "Like" button idea - also floated as an "Awesome" button - when his engineering team presented the feature, the New Statesman reported.

He was worried that this simplistic feedback would replace comments, and hamper sharing. It took a data scientist to turn things around by showing that "Liking" a post actually increased the number of comments. Can you imagine what would have happened with Awesoming? Ugh. Screaming-cat-face.

Top Twitter Takedown Tweets: Photos

Twitter also introduced changes for users, although I'm still not happy about it. Initially you could use the "Favorite" button to star a particular tweet. Then, last November, the network replaced the option with "likes" denoted by a red heart.

To me, starring a tweet meant it was important. Hearting tweets about bad yet relevant news felt wrong - the opposite of what Twitter's team wanted to achieve. "The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people," their product manager posted at the time. My reaction? Angry-face.

And then there are the official emojis that we've come to know well. Emoji started in Japan in 1999 with little graphics, as this Fast Company oral history points out. That was back in the beeper days. Google and Apple debuted theirs in 2008, and not long afterward the emoji language was approved by the Unicode Consortium as an industry standard.

Racially Diverse Emojis Coming from Apple

Getting a new official emoji into the mix hasn't been easy. Just look at the ongoing push for a dumpling emoji. Although a bunch of new ones were released last year, the Unicode Consortium has some big decisions to make. I hug-face that cowboy one, but still wish someone would draft a cute prairie dog emoji. They go together.

Sometimes a string of emojis will still trip me up. Or I'll squint at the phone and wonder why the tiny face is snorting. Overall, though, the emoticon evolution has been helpful in conveying what we mean across languages and cultures.

Young kids might not know this, but before emojis we had to use simple punctuation to convey tone and emotion in typed messages. We even had long debates about whether it was professional to use them at work. I know. Haha. Wow-face.

"Joel, this is Marty Cooper, I'd like you to know that I'm calling you from a cellular phone." Exactly 40 years ago, on April 3, 1973, Motorola engineer Martin Cooper placed this call -- the first ever on a cell phone -- to Joel Engel, his rival at AT&T’s Bell Labs.

Cooper, now 85, made history in downtown Manhattan using the bulky prototype he had developed.

Cooper's prototype arrived on the market a decade later at the staggering price of $3,995. Designed by Rudy Krolopp, it was known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X, or simply "the brick.” Featuring 20 large buttons and a long rubber antenna, it measured about 11 inches high, weighed almost 2 pounds, provided one hour of battery life and could store 30 phone numbers.

Released in 1984, Nokia’s Mobira Talkman was advertised as one of the first transportable phones. It was sold for use both in and out of a car -- if you could lift it.

Nokia's concept evolved in 1987 with the handheld mobile Mobira Cityman 900. Weighing 28 ounces, it was one of the lightest phones at that time and cost 24,000 Finnish marks ($5,178).

Ahead of its time, the Motorola MicroTAC was the smallest available phone when it was released in 1989. Featuring the flip-phone form later adopted by the fashionable StarTAC, the first clamshell cellular phone, the MicroTAC was 9 inches long when open and weighed only 12.3 ounces.

Launched in 1992 -- also when the first text message arrived -- the Nokia 101 was the first commercially available GSM mobile phone.

Although it lacked the famous Nokia ringtone, introduced in 1994, it featured a monochrome display and memory for 99 phone numbers. Its design anticipated the successful "candy bar” phones.

Released in 1993 as a joint creation of IBM and BellSouth, this was the first smartphone. A fax machine, a PDA, a pager and a mobile phone, the IBM Simon featured no physical keys, but used a touchscreen and optional stylus. Amazingly, it included applications such as games, email, a notepad, calculator, world clock, address book and a calendar. It only sold in the United States, for $899.

Launched in 1999, this was the first mobile phone with integrated GPS.

Featuring a large grayscale LCD screen, it offered a 12-channel GPS navigator and maps to trace position. It also sent coordinates via text messages to a list of emergency numbers and featured a "friend find” service to track other Benefon Esc users.

Launched in 2000, the Samsung SPH-M100 Uproar holds its place in history as the first mobile phone capable of storing and playing MP3 files.

Cell phone photography arrived in 2000, with Samsung's SCH-V200, a VGA-camera-equipped phone. Released in South Korea, it featured a digital camera with a 180-degree rotating lens and a maximum resolution of 352 x 288 -- a far cry from the 41-megapixel camera phone that Nokia will release in European markets in May.

Motorola brought contemporary design to mobile phones with the Razr V3 in 2004. Thin, trendy and stylish, it featured a VGA camera, quad-band compatibility and Bluetooth support.

The phone became an icon. According to Motorola, more than 110 million units sold worldwide.

The launch of Apple's iPhone in 2007 changed everything. With its unique design, easy-to-use operating system and a multitude of apps to download, the multi- touchscreen phone set the standard for all cell phones to come.

Once an accessory for the privileged, Martin Cooper's vision is now a staple of life. Today the world has nearly as many mobile phone subscriptions as inhabitants.

Indeed, 6 billion people, out of the world's estimated 7 billion, have access to mobile phones.