I've noticed that Facebook and now Google+ only have a "Like" (or +1) button, in spite of users wanting a "Dislike" button. This seems to be a bit of trend. Disqus also dropped their dislike vote - now you can only "like" stuff.

Is there any particular reason for that (other than may be having one less button and less functionality to worry about)? This always struck me as a bad idea because it's harder to identify bad content (eg: stuff that would get massively downvoted but can garner some upvotes).

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    Also don't forget you're adding a vector for trolling by adding a dislike button. You can't cause people psychological harm by "liking" them too much, the same isn't true when I can dislike everything your smelly dumb face says. I mean that in a professional way of course.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 12, 2011 at 13:37
  • The example sites seem more focused on quantity over quality. The more content a user has to trapse through, the more ads they can serve up to them. So (purely a guess) I am assuming the content curation is much less of a priority for those entities.
    – DA01
    Oct 12, 2011 at 14:07
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    @DA01 There's bigger effects of this "like only" policy than just Facebook and G+ themselves though, as many many sites use those social media sites to either "rank" or promote stories. On that note I also bet some content producers wouldn't be happy if Facebook offered everyone an easy way to downvote/insult their content...
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 12, 2011 at 14:28
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    a good point, Ben--especially on Facebook where they allow commercial entities to have accounts.
    – DA01
    Oct 12, 2011 at 14:56
  • @DA01 that actually skipped my mind. Probably another big reason. I doubt if facebook will ever implement a dislike feature, and Google seems to be leaning away from the feature.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 12, 2011 at 15:09

5 Answers 5


Down votes are useful when looking at a narrow interest community (like this forum). It is likely that one person down voting an item gives useful information for most of the other users. But if you're talking about a narrow topic in a broad audience, that down vote tells me very little.

Take music as an example. If you love classical music, does the fact that a lot of classical music haters down voted a great classical piece tell you anything? Not at all. Does it tell you something if it has a high number of up votes? Yes.

So for things like facebook, where there is a large and diverse audience, only having an up vote makes sense. People that don't like something simply don't vote on it.

Additionally down votes are useful when trying to rank or sort content. That is another reason why it is good on Stack Exchange for answers, but it also explains why it is not used on comments - we don't sort comments.

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    YouTube has down votes, but you don't see people down-voting classical music videos because they don't like that sort of music. And I wouldn't say YouTube is a narrow interest community. Down votes do server a purpose, at least by showing how contentious content is. Oct 12, 2011 at 20:21
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    @AssafLavie: YouTube itself isn't a narrow-interest community. However, a video from a search result is. Oct 12, 2011 at 21:19
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    Youtube is a huge collection of narrow interest communities, really. There are lots of specific small sectors that often vote mostly up only. Also if anything downvotes don't seem to push down content on youtube, as I've found a number of "popular" videos with more downvotes than up, sometimes by 75%, usually when a video is a hoax/trolling
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 13, 2011 at 13:46

A few reasons:

One, it's negative. It sounds silly, but it's often better to expose users to as few elements of negativity as possible. Keep things light and friendly.

Two, you can still identify bad content with the right algorithms. Certain content terms, poor reader conversion rates, and a lack of upvotes relative to similar content all suggest bad content.

Three, we shouldn't be just serving our users 'good' content - but customized content. Users have their own particular interests, and it's often more productive to provide that than highly-rated but irrelevant data.

Four, it causes DRAMA (link mildly NSFW). It's not unusual for members of a community to take umbrage with one another. Irritation and rivalry can turn into downvote wars. These cause bad feelings all round and themselves engender difficult to manage content, like rude thread replies and unpleasant personal messages. Take it from a forum moderator: you need to keep your community free of DRAMA.

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    Every time I see someone pining for a dislike button on facebook they're forgetting the drama. They want to be able to "dislike" posts like "My family died" instead of "liking" them (I'm not sure why disliking that is respectful either). Being able to "dislike" an individual person's actions like that also has negative psychological effects that generally aren't welcome or helpful in most web communities.
    – Ben Brocka
    Oct 12, 2011 at 13:34
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    @Ben, yeah. What they really want is a "Damn, dude, that sucks" button. Oct 12, 2011 at 14:29
  • @AlexFeinman: What ever happened to typing that out? Oct 12, 2011 at 21:20
  • I think that "Agree" would have been a better name for +1 than "Like".
    – dan04
    Oct 13, 2011 at 10:26
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    @jberger, you raise a good point--but then, why did the +1/Like button catch on? One reason: aggregation. "10 people like this". It's actually pretty annoying to see a post with 10 "like" comments--or 10 "damn dude that sucks"s, actually. (Another reason: it's less user effort...) Oct 13, 2011 at 13:59

One possible theory may be to encourage more voting in general. When there are upvotes and downvotes, it's very easy to be apathetic about everything and only vote on things that you really love or really hate.

However, with just a "Like" button, it encourages users to, in essence, "drown out" the bad items. Say you have 4 items: 1 you love, 2 things you think are OK and 1 you hate. You might vote on the first 3 to give them more "visibility" than the latter. Whereas with up/down votes you may only vote on the first and last.


I believe the confusion is caused by the label of the "Like" button. It seems that the real purpose of the button is to acknowledged that you are interested in something. Users don't always like the "Liked" sites.

Having a dislike button is not necessarily. If i am not interested at something, i just ignore it. There is no reason broadcasting to the world that i do not care about the vast majority of web pages i stumble upon.


In addition to JohnGB and Jimmy's answers, I would add that not having a 'downvote' button potentially generates more content and, specifically, may generate content that represents alternative views.

For example, if someone starts a thread saying "We should ban all soda" and, overtaken with emotion you feel the need to take action on this thread, you cannot simply press the 'downvote' button. You have to actually put your thoughts in to words, explaining why you think this is a bad idea, and post this content on the website.

In the end for this example, you may get +9 upvotes and the OP might get +6 upvotes and you can both feel good about that rather than, say, the OP getting a spirit-crushing/publicly-embarrassing -3 votes and you not getting any votes at all, and less content being generated for other users to consume.

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