Facebook’s “Poke” feature has never really gone away, but now the social network is giving it a more prominent placement – and is even considering expanding the set of casual greeting options to include others, like a wink, wave, high-five or hug.
A number of people recently noticed the return of the Poke on Facebook’s mobile app.
Though Facebook had never really discontinued the age-old feature, which serves as a quick way to get someone’s attention on its network, it has now given the Poke a highly visible spot.
At the top of users’ profiles on mobile, the Poke button sits next to a Message button, and right below your friend’s name and photo.
The Poke is one of Facebook’s oldest features. It existed at a time when the social network was still called Thefacebook, for example, and there wasn’t as much to do on the site as there is today. The meaning of the Poke was never defined, as Facebook decided to leave it up to interpretation.
“When we created the poke, we thought it would be cool to have a feature without any specific purpose,” Facebook had explained in the past. “People interpret the poke in many different ways, and we encourage you to come up with your own meanings.”
Of course, many people took the Poke to be a form of virtual flirting while others saw it as more of a joke. Poke wars between friends ensued, as well.
Now it looks like Facebook wants to give the Poke another shot.
The new Poke button’s placement also makes it easier accidental Pokes to occur, when you were aiming for the Message button instead, or just browsing through a user’s profile.
For this reason, not everyone is thrilled with the new button, it seems:
Because the feature is from an earlier era of Facebook history, the Poke is actually somewhat mysterious to some users who don’t know what the feature does or why it’s there. Others, who do remember the Poke, assumed it had been removed and has just now returned:
But the Poke had never been shut off for good – it was just tucked away in the navigation. Now, it’s sort of impossible to miss.
Facebook isn’t done with the Poke yet, either.
The company has been testing a new series of greetings including hello, high-fiving, hugging, and winking, in addition to the Poke, The Next Web recently discovered.
These also sit at the top of users’ profiles for those who have been added to the test group, and appear as bright, colorful buttons. (It had tested a “hello” button earlier this year, as well.)
Above: a demo of the new Greetings feature on Facebook
The idea with Greetings is to offer Facebook users more ways to reach out to friends, beyond posting to their profiles, commenting and direct messaging. With these more lightweight interactions, you can show a friend you’re thinking about them with little effort on your part.
But Facebook will need to be careful with the launch of Pokes and Greetings. In the past, some women said the Facebook Poke often felt like a creepy flirting tool, for example. If the new Greetings buttons or the new Poke button are available to anyone on Facebook to access, and not just a user’s friends, they could be abused as a way to pester someone online.
Not everyone has the test of the Greetings buttons or the new Poke button, we understand. Facebook would not confirm if or when it would make these features publicly available to all.