Like it or not, Facebook Inc's trademark "like" button is set to get more expressive.

Users will soon be able to do more than "like" posts. They will be able to love them and express sympathy, anger or sadness with animated emoticons.

The social network said on Thursday it was launching a pilot test of "reactions", with users able to select from seven emotions, including "like" and "wow". "Dislike", however, is not one of the options.

Facebook reaction buttons launced in Ireland and Spain
Facebook reaction buttons launced in Ireland and Spain

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday that users had been requesting ways other than "like" to respond to posts, such as when someone posts about the death of a loved one or a tragic news story.

"Not every moment is a good moment, and sometimes you just want a way to express empathy," wrote Zuckerberg, who said last month the company was working on expanding the like button. "A like might not be the best way to express yourself."

In a video accompanying a Facebook post by chief product officer Chris Cox, the six new buttons appear as animated emoticons and pop up when the "like" button is long-pressed.

The company said it would pilot the new features in Ireland and Spain on iOS, Android and desktops. The feedback from the pilot test will be used to improve the feature.

The company hopes "to roll it out to everyone soon", Mr Cox wrote in the post, which was "liked" by more than 7,500 people within two hours.

"As you can see, it's not a 'dislike' button, though we hope it addresses the spirit of this request more broadly," Mr Cox wrote.

Mr Zuckerberg's comments last month, which many users took to mean the social network was working on a "dislike" button, spearheaded a debate over whether it would cause cyberbullying and negativity on the site.

But users mostly welcomed Mr Cox's announcement, saying on social media it was a smart idea.

Facebook user Marc Marasco posted on Cox's Facebook page: "Elegant solution", while Tony DeLisi wrote: "Cheers to nuance".

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