If you're a WhatsApp user with an iPhone or Android phone, Mark Zuckerberg has some good news for you: writing on Facebook, he's announced that "we're bringing avatars to WhatsApp! Now you can use your avatar as a sticker in chats. More styles coming soon across all our apps."
The new feature, which is available now, enables you to create a personalised avatar to use as your WhatsApp profile photo in place of a real photo, and you can also use it as a sticker in chats alongside another 35 custom stickers.
Why avatars are better than emoji
WhatsApp's avatars and stickers are more personal than using emoji, and the collection is designed to represent lots of different emotions and actions that can express a wider range of actions than the usual emoji palette. They're similar to the Memoji in Apple's iOS or the personalised emoji in Gboard and third-party apps on Android.
As Meta explains in its announcement post, "Your avatar is a digital version of you that can be created from billions of combinations of diverse hair styles, facial features, and outfits." In addition to the options you can use from today, Meta also plans to introduce additional options such as lighting and shading effects, hair style textures and other features to make your virtual you more you. It hasn't said when those additional features are coming, though: the official line is that they'll be coming "over time".
Although this feature is for WhatsApp, it's not unconnected to Meta's push for the "metaverse": in its current vision, you'll be represented in virtual and mixed reality by an avatar very similar to the ones now being offered in WhatsApp, so it won't be surprising if Meta starts making these avatars work across all its multiple apps and platforms in the not too distant future.