I have spent sometime thinking about this, trying to figure out which symbol best conveys sharing to the user. The share icon from previous versions of iOS has been around for many years and is still being used in Mac OS X Mavericks (Mac OS X Yosemite will use the same share symbol as iOS 7's).
The Windows 8 share symbol is reminiscent of the Ubuntu logo and is used widely across OS and on Windows Phone devices.
The many people symbol is usually used to mean sharing with specific collaborators or team members. Yahoo , Facebook , Facebook , Twitter , Twitter , Google+ , Google+ , Myspace , Myspace , Linkedin , Linkedin , Odnoklassniki , Odnoklassniki , Vkontakte , Vkontakte , Google , Google , Yahoo , Yahoo , Rambler , Rambler , Yandex , Yandex , Gmail , Gmail , Yahoo!
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If you place it side by side with the symbol for downloading, it's immediately apparent that the iOS 7 share icon is quite confusing. The same symbol is also used by ShareThis, a popular plugin for developers to share to all the popular social networks.
It represents the idea of network effects quite well, but I find it overly complex and too cluttered to be a good share icon. For this issue, I asked my housemate, a non-designer: "What comes to mind first when you think of sharing?


Sharing to a social network or via email is a ubiquitous action nowadays but designers still haven't been able to reach a consensus on what symbol to use to represent it. The upward pointing arrow is the exact inverse of the download icon and the natural assumption is that it represents the opposite, uploading.
This symbol is not widely used now, but I still really like this symbol because the arrows represent outward motion, much like the act of sharing, and also because it is vertically symmetrical.
Without its accompanying label, a first time user would likely be very confused about the function of this icon. They may be a good representation of chemical elements bonding, but they definitely do not represent the concept of sharing well. However, those share actions usually denote sharing settings to a local area network, not sharing to social platforms.
How would you represent the action of sharing with a symbol?" He proceeded to draw a drink, which he explained was a milkshake, with two straws.
Since each of the big three OS companies has huge device market share, users will likely interact with at least three different types of symbols that represent the same action. An effective icon is one that requires minimum effort for the user to translate that symbol to an action. Not only does each major platform use a different icon, but each has witnessed changes over the years.


It does not really convey any meaning at first glance, but if I were to venture a guess, the designer is trying to represent the idea of the single node on the left spreading out to two others on the right. I think that this is one of the best representations of the concept of sharing purely based on its shape. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to have caught on and is rarely used on sites in the wild. Overall, the idea of this design is not immediately intuitive and the association of sharing with this symbol is purely because users have learned what it means over time.
More importantly, this symbol seems to convey a very specific sharing concept—sharing the same object between two people. However, in the sharing context that we are discussing, it's almost always the idea of sharing to many other platforms.



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