As Facebook gets serious about stickers, creator says so long

Sophie Xie, who started Facebook's sticker initiative as a hackathon project, has left the social network just three months after the fancy emoticons made their debut.

A Facebook sticker exchange with original product designer Sophie Xie. Jennifer Van Grove/CNET

Just a little more than a year after joining Facebook, Sophie Xie, the product and art designer behind Facebook's expanding sticker initiative, has left the company, CNET has confirmed.

Xie started the Facebook hackathon project that turned into Facebook stickers, the character-driven emoticons that people can send in private messages on mobile and now Web. The silly digital adhesives, initially released in April, are a very serious initiative for Facebook as it tries to make its messaging products appeal to younger audiences who are migrating to WhatsApp, Kik, Line, and other single-purchase apps.

Prior to Facebook, Xie worked as a product designer at Lookout and a user interface researcher for Microsoft. Josh Constine at TechCrunch was first to report Xie's departure. She confirmed the exit, appropriately, in a Facebook sticker exchange. Xie, currently on vacation, said she's taking the next few months off.

The loss hints at some possible internal discord around the company's sticker strategy, especially when considering Xie's short tenure. But her departure may turn out to be a little blip for Facebook has it pushes forward with an aggressive messaging strategy designed to get its 1.11 billion users more active with its services. The stickers project has become high enough priority that Facebook has been investing in something it calls "compassion research" to concoct its lifelike animated emoticons. The social network also turns to professional illustrators for help with inspiration and design.

Xie's exit follows a string of more high-profile departures. Last week, Facebook advertising executive Gokul Rajaram jumped ship to Square. Earlier this year, the company lost product director Blake Ross, accounting chief David Spillane, and engineering director Josh Wiseman. General counsel Ted Ullyot is also on his way out the door.

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