Facebook has this week announced the expanded roll-out of its ‘Avatars’ custom, Bitmoji-like characters, which it first launched to Australian users in June last year.
As per Facebook’s EMEA Communications manager Alexandru Voica:
“We’re expanding Avatars across Europe, and are excited to give people in these countries a new way to express themselves and convey more of their identity. Avatars let people create a new persona, allowing them to share across Facebook and Messenger in a more light-hearted way.”
As noted, Facebook first launched Avatars to Australian users last June, providing an option to create your own cartoonish likeness, which can then be added to stickers that can be used across Facebook and Messenger.
This is, of course, just like Bitmoji, but at this stage, highlighting the fact that Facebook has copied a popular idea from somewhere else seems almost redundant. Yes, Facebook copied Bitmoji, blatantly. That’s how it goes in the current social media landscape.
Being in Australia, I’ve had access to Avatars for some time, as have my on-platform connections, and while I don’t have a massive Facebook network, I can say that I hardly ever see them. In fact, I don’t remember seeing one, outside of the first week of launch. That’s obviously entirely anecdotal, and not data-based in any way. But based on my experience, I’m not sure that they’re going to prove to be a hit with European users, or catch on in any significant way, as yet.
Of course, Facebook could still make Avatars a more relevant consideration. On Snapchat, for example, it recently made Bitmoji characters more of a focus by introducing a new ‘Bitmoji TV’ option, which puts the custom characters of you and your friends into a cartoon.
Facebook could look to do something similar if it wanted to boost take-up – but again, at present, I’m not sure that they’re going to become a significant element of the app.
But the data will tell the tale – Avatars will be made available across Europe this, week, which will provide new insights into how popular they could eventually become.