Facebook Inc. is working on options besides the "like" button for users to weigh in on their friends' postings, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a public session.

The alternatives would help people express sympathy or empathy, and will start being publicly tested on the social network soon, he said in the session at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

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"People have asked about the dislike button for many years," Zuckerberg said. "We've finally heard you, and we're working on this and we will deliver something that meets the needs of the larger community."

The "like" feature was originally conceived in 2007 as an "awesome" button, before rolling out to users in 2009 as "an easy way to tell friends that you like what they're sharing on Facebook with one easy click."

The button and its thumbs-up icon have since become a universal symbol for Facebook itself, helping the company's 1.49 billion users acknowledge friends' milestones or express their affinity for a brand or cause. Still, the button doesn't provide an appropriate response for sadder content often shared on Facebook, such as death, Zuckerberg said.

He didn't elaborate on what the other options would be.

"We've been working on this for a while," he said.