Staff Editorial: To Like, or not to Like this column... that is the only question

We hope you'll Like this article. There's a little thumbs-up icon at the top of the page that will allow you to do so. Unfortunately, if you end up absolutely hating it, you'll have no way to register your displeasure except in the comments section.

Facebook's Like function, which allows users to register publicly their approval of blog posts, news articles, videos and, most recently, eBay posts, has become absolutely ubiquitous across the Internet. It's nearly impossible to find a blog that won't offer to link to your Facebook profile, tempting the reader with that nearly-challenging admonition that "thousands of people like this. Be the first of your friends." Who could possibly resist that?    

It seems a subtle touch, but the Like button may be Mark Zuckerberg's most brilliant innovation yet. By clicking that little button, you link yourself and all of your friends to that hilarious blog post about cats with hankerings for poorly-spelled cheeseburgers. Now all your friends can go to that site and maybe click on the advertising that's there. And if just one of them clicks the Like button while there, they've then linked to hundreds more possible consumers. You'd better believe advertisers pay Facebook through the nose to give them that sort of demographic.

There's just one problem: Most of the stuff on the Internet is pretty terrible. In fact, some of it is so terrible that you want to share it with your friends immediately so that you can all laugh at the horrendousness of it. Frantically you quest around the page, looking for the little "thumbs-down" icon. Then you realize it hasn't been invented yet and your search has been for naught.

The reason there isn't a Dislike button is pretty obvious: Advertisers don't want people to dislike content associated with their products. This would reflect poorly on them as a company. The Facebook position on the issue has never been spelled out, but the official implication is that Facebook is attempting to foster a harmonious atmosphere.

While harmony is a noble cause, there are undeniable benefits to having a Dislike button; the most notable, of course, would be the democratization of the Internet. No longer would you have the option to Like or stand mute – now you would be able to register your disapproval. There are benefits for advertisers as well: As niche marketing becomes the norm, they'll be able to tailor your ad experience to your preferences, thereby making their advertising more efficient and effective. Hulu and Pandora Radio already use a similar system; Facebook would simply make it universal.

It's time for the Dislike button. If you approve, please Like this column.