Facebook testing Reactions feature

Source: Facebook

Facebook is testing a feature to expand users' reactions to posts in their News Feeds, using several emojis in place of the "like" button, a Facebook executive said Thursday.

The optional feature, called Reactions, would expand the current "like" option to several smiley faces with expression such as "wow," "sad" and "angry," according to a video posted Thursday on Facebook by Chris Cox, Facebook's chief product officer.

Reactions will roll out in Spain and Ireland for iOS, Android and desktop Thursday, Cox wrote. Though users can currently comment with emojis on friends' posts, the new option would be a faster, easier method for mobile users to react.

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"We studied which comments and reactions are most commonly and universally expressed across Facebook, then worked to design an experience around them that was elegant and fun," Cox wrote. Users can post a Reaction by pressing and holding the "like" button or hovering over it, according to Cox's post.

The move is in keeping with remarks from founder Mark Zuckerberg last month at a question-and-answer session, where he said the company had been looking to expand the "like" feature because "we don't want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people's posts."

At the September event, Zuckerberg said that while there has been much demand for a "dislike" button on the social media site, the aim of a revamped "like" feature would be to allow users to "express empathy." While Reactions doesn't include the "dislike" button, Cox said it is meant to address the "spirit" of that request.

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Facebook also recently introduced design changes to users' profiles, such as a centered profile photo on the mobile app with options for a short video or scheduled photo to appear in the slot. Users can also customize the information that appears in a short biography in their profile, and add additional featured pictures there.

Reactions is on par with a larger expansion of the ways users can rate and use content on social media.

Sites such as Buzzfeed have already experimented with more tailored reactions. Social network Reddit, on the other hand, recently launched site Upvoted, using it's binary up and down "voting" system to create original content based on Reddit's most "liked" posts.

Entrepreneur Erik Wilson, acting CEO and co-founder of app Pozify, said he has seen users use more empathy when given a sliding scale of options for rating social media content on his app. He said that by rating content by "emotional magnitude," his users are rewarded for good content and acts of kindness.

Shares of Facebook were trading down 1.5 percent at midday Tuesday, on a day when the markets were down less than 1 percent.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, which owns CNBC, also invests in BuzzFeed.