WhatsApp introduces avatars for personality and privacy

WhatsApp’s avatars are cartoony caricatures of you (Meta)
WhatsApp’s avatars are cartoony caricatures of you (Meta)

WhatsApp has begun to roll out avatars, a feature that parent company Meta says will boost both privacy and personalisation.

Like Apple’s Memoji, which iPhone users can already paste into WhatsApp chats in the form of expressive stickers, WhatsApp’s avatars are cartoony caricatures of you. Unlike Memoji, they also have bodies for additional outfits, and the company says that these will combine with its “diverse hairstyles” and “facial features” for “billions of combinations”.

For many, the question will be: “why?” Meta’s answer is twofold: fun and privacy. “Sending an avatar is a fast and fun way to share feelings with friends and family,” the company wrote in a blog post. “It can also be a great way to represent yourself without using your real photo so it feels more private.”

As well as setting your avatar as your photo, it can also be used in chats. One of 36 custom stickers show your cartoony face clapping, winking, thinking and flooding the chat with tears — depending on your mood.

We can’t help noticing that the art style — with oversized heads and large oval eyes — isn’t a million miles away from the one currently showcased on avatars in Meta’s gateway to the metaverse, Horizon Worlds.

Whether that’s a sign of future integration, or just the result of a unified art style between connected brands, is open to speculation. That said, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has promised that Horizon World’s art will be souped up after his cartoony promo was widely lampooned on social media.

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Either way, for WhatsApp, this is just the beginning, with the company pledging to provide “style enhancements” in the future. These will include features such as lighting, shading and hairstyle textures to “make avatars even better over time”.

You don’t have to wait to get started on your avatar, either, as the feature is being rolled out today.