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Meta on Wednesday announced the launch of customized ‘avatars’ on its platforms, with rollout starting on WhatsApp. In a post on Facebook, Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg said that the avatars will be “coming soon" to “all" Meta apps, and offer 36 custom stickers to users. The feature is the latest in a space that includes Snapchat’s Bitmoji launched in 2016, Apple’s Memoji from 2018, and more recently, custom avatars on Meta’s social media rival, TikTok.

In a blog post on the announcement, WhatsApp said that the avatars will offer “billions of combinations of diverse hairstyles, facial features and outfits."

The launch comes months after rival social media platform, the China-based TikTok, introduced animated avatars for use on the short video platform. The Bytedance-owned short video social media platform was ranked as the most downloaded app across all geographies last year, apart from India — where the app was banned in June 2020.

Meta has, over time, identified TikTok as one of its biggest threats — starting as early as June 2019. At the time, Matt Perault, the erstwhile head of global policy development at Meta (then Facebook), said at a house judiciary hearing in the US that the range of Meta’s apps could not qualify as monopoly due to TikTok’s rising popularity.

Since then, Meta’s platforms have adopted a range of features that closely ape TikTok itself — such as with Reels on Instagram. In July this year, Instagram chief, Adam Mosseri, admitted in public forum that while Instagram will continue to show photos — the medium’s original form of content — users will “inevitably see a lot more of videos on the platform."

Mosseri stated at the time that this was due to a clear preference for video viewing among users that Instagram noted internally. The service, however, backtracked a change to its home feed layout that also mimicked TikTok — after the change drew widespread backlash from some of Instagram’s most followed celebrities and personalities.

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