Facebook Begins Hiding Total Like Counts on Facebook Posts in Australia

Facebook Begins Hiding Total Like Counts on Facebook Posts in Australia


And the next phase begins.

Earlier this month, reverse engineering expert Jane Manchun Wong reported her finding that Facebook may soon be looking to follow Instagram’s lead in hiding total Like counts on Facebook posts. 

Facebook hide likes test

As you can see here – in an image taken from the back-end code of Facebook – the Like listing in this iteration doesn’t have a total number, but an ‘and others…’ note, similar to Instagram’s test.

Now, Facebook has confirmed that it is, in fact, beginning a test of hiding total Like counts on Facebook, with TechCrunch reporting that the new test will begin with Australian users this week.

Facebook hidden like totals

That’ll certainly rattle the cages of a lot of Facebook users, who rely on their Like counts as a type of validation – which is exactly what the broader initiative is designed to reduce.

Instagram began its test of removing total Like post counts for Canadian users back in April, then expanded it to Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, Japan and New Zealand in July. There’s been no official usage data or trend insights shared by Instagram as yet, but given that parent company Facebook is now looking to adopt the same, you would assume that the initial experiment must be showing some signs of promise, based on internal indicators.

The idea of removing Like counts on Instagram relates to the company’s broader focus on user wellbeing. In an interview with CBS News in June, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri explained that:

“We don’t want Instagram to be such a competition. We want it to be a place where people spend more of their energy connecting with the people that they love and the things that they care about.” 

The removal of public like counts, according to Mosseri, could reduce social comparison, and its associated negative impacts. 

Being based in Australia, where Instagram Likes have been hidden for the past few months, it has been interesting to read the coverage, and some of the misconceptions about the test.

First off, you can still see the full Like listing on any Instagram post – your own or from others – you just can’t see the total number.

Instagram Like test

As you can see here, tap on the ‘others’ note beneath any Instagram post and you’re taken to a full listing of all the public Likes for that update – so you can still get a fairly good idea of how popular any post is, if you want, it just takes an extra step, and you don’t have an accurate, easy to refer to, total count. It’s unclear, at this stage, if Facebook will provide the same option in its test.

Interestingly, I can also still see full like listings in the web version of Instagram, despite them not being in the app.

Instagram Like test

That may well be skewing Instagram’s performance data – if people are still checking the total Like counts online, how can Instagram know if the change is having a real impact? Of course, most people use Instagram in-app, so you’d think the potential impacts would be minimal. But you would also expect that Facebook, with more desktop users, won’t have the same inconsistency in its test. 

As an experiment, it’ll be interesting to see what the actual impacts are, and if Facebook and Instagram are able to quantify any positive benefits of the change. Some influencers and industry analysts in regions where the change has been implemented have suggested that it is already having significant negative impacts, but it’s hard to know without hard data, and without seeing what the platforms themselves are using as their metrics for success.

Will removing Like counts be the disaster that some are saying? Again, being in a region where this has already been implemented, I don’t think this will cause as significant a shift as some have suggested, but we’ll have to wait for the data to tell the full story. 

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