Facebook's Finch stickers put livelier face on messaging

Stickers are not just a gimmick. The social network is crafting new characters to make its messaging products mimic face-to-face interactions.

Jennifer Van Grove Former Senior Writer / News
Jennifer Van Grove covered the social beat for CNET. She loves Boo the dog, CrossFit, and eating vegan. Her jokes are often in poor taste, but her articles are not.
Jennifer Van Grove
2 min read
Emotions sketches by Illustrator Matt Jones. Facebook
Facebook is rolling out a new animated sticker pack created by illustrator Matt Jones as part of a much larger effort to make messaging more human.

Stickers, which are essentially a character-driven interpretation on emoticons, made their first appearance in Facebook's iOS application in mid April. The social network has since added its warm-and-fuzzy, and sometimes kooky, digital machinations to the Messenger application for Android. Facebook will eventually bring the characters to its other messaging apps as well.

Finch Facebook stickers
Meet Finch, a new character that comes to life in your Facebook messages. Facebook
Facebook announced Friday the release of a new sticker pack based on a character Jones created called Finch. The pack features 16 facial expressions such as surprise, sympathy, sadness, and cheerfulness. It's available as a free download in Facebook's Sticker Store.

Though seemingly inane, Facebook's stickers are the product of months of careful research designed to improve messaging and make it more life-like.

"We're looking to figure out how we can create a private-sharing experience to most mimic and capture what's lost in face-to-face connections," Aaron Goldsmid, the product lead behind Facebook's sticker initiative, told CNET.

With that goal in mind, and as part of an ongoing effort in what Facebook calls "compassion research," the company turned to academics like Dacher Kelter, the co-director of the University of California, Berkeley's Greater Good Science program. Kelter teamed with Jones and animator Sam Hood to create a template of universal facial expressions with Charles Darwin's "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" serving as the inspiration, Facebook said.

"As an artist, it was an interesting challenge to try to improve upon what is already an iconic symbol -- the emoticon," Jones said in a statement shared with CNET. "By applying classic animation principals, both in design and motion, we arrived at Finch -- an appealing character who appears to think, emote, and communicate. We hope we have achieved the first step in redefining emoticons."

Facebook isn't the only company embracing stickers. The larger-than-life emoticons are a staple of popular messaging application Line, and have become a new monetization vehicle for private social network Path.