Why isn't there one single universal 'share' icon?


I blame a singular, well orchestrated campaign designed to piss me off.

Edit: I’d never seen the WIndows 8 icon before. It reminds me of a Human Centipede.

Edit 2: “The Hands” = “Orgasmitron”

Edit 3: “The Spread”…Asshole (so it goes)


Hammer and sickle. Why do you reds insist on sharing?


Only the first four really make any sort of sense.

Yeah, if I want to share, I tend to have multiple modes.

In the future, I’m sure google/facebook/yahoo/pintrest monopoly will only allow one communication outlet.

Otherwise, i’ll continue to copy/paste links into my various sharing vehicles.




Maybe there’s no appropriately-shaped Swedish castle available to inspire one.


Eh, that Android one is pretty ambiguous. My first line of thought would be “network settings” not sharing.

As one might expect, the Microsoft Windows 8 icon looks least threatening to copyright holders. It looks like you’re sharing with a limited circle of friends. Much like how (here in Canada, at least) you’re allowed to share copyrighted music with family and friends, while making it available to the general public is a copyright violation…

For the folks who believe everything is under copyright, some of the other icons suggest no limits, as if you’re sending content “out there” for everyone to see. Illegal for the little people to do, in their view.

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The Windows 8 one is very nearly the Ubuntu Linux icon. As in, “What they hell did they do to my computer? Screw this, I’m installing Ubuntu.”


There is a standard share icon. It looks like this:


The rest of them are simply branding. :slight_smile:


The ‘standard’ share icon for websites used to resemble the Google Android icon – three dots connected by two lines. However, there was concern that that particular design was too closely associated with one company, ShareThis, and that it could potentially be trademarked. This led to the Open Share Icon, which was designed not to be encumbered in any way.

The Open Share Icon has some nice implied semantics – it can be interpreted as one hand passing an object to another (“sharing”), but it also resembles an eye (“look at this”). While those meanings don’t necessarily leap out at you, once you know them the design makes more sense than Apple’s icons (“arrows will escape from any box you put them in”) or the ShareThis/Android icon (“two of whatever these are won’t talk to each other and have to communicate via a third party”), Windows 8 (“click here for something about particle physics or maybe roundabouts”), Windows 7 (“it’s a badly-wrapped gift! it’s a flowerpot! it’s both at once!”) or Android 2011 (“Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle applies here”).

Sadly, I think Apple’s design will probably be the long-term winner, and Open Share will go the way of the Betamax.


I despise share icons. They could not be less necessary.

All you need is a clear link to the content. Then the user is free to share that however he or she pleases.


I skipped to the question (I think it was bolded) and read it as “Shame Icon”. That’s more fun.

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In defense of “the uploader”, sharing something is essentially the act of uploading something to a distinct and separate network; it both creates a copy and implies a change in visibity, especially in the context of file managent on an operating system.

When I share a photo on iOS, I am not giving people access to specific data on my phone.

In this context, “sharing” is very much the opposite of downloading.

I think one complication of this question is that these symbols may not actually do the same things. Apple’s symbol is used more for, “Do something with this,” meaning I may print it or open it with something else, or things other than “sharing,” which I associated with publishing to social networks.

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The One True Icon of Sharing



Yes, but where “share” and “upload” are seen as different actions, you have to admit that the symbol much better represents “upload”. Downloading and uploading are impersonal actions: you reach out to grab something sitting untended in the larger world, or you’re throwing something out there to be found later. We impose a notion of hierarchy, but in and out would work as well as down and up.

Sharing is more personal: you share with certain people, not the world. A box with a right-pointing arrow would be better for share. If you cling to a hierarchical way of thinking,then it’s a lateral motion between equals. Also, it resembles the icon already used for “forward message” (usually an envelope with a right-pointing arrow) as well as the Apple “outbox” icon also discussed here.


Personally, I associate three connected dots with “alert Brainiac”.