Twitter is ditching the egg avatar to shed troll image

3 Apr 2017

Pile of eggs. Image: Sonpichit Salangsing/Shutterstock

Having become synonymous with trolling on Twitter, the faceless egg image on the social network’s profiles is to be ditched.

For the past seven years, a Twitter avatar with an egg image meant one of two things: a new profile or a troll account wanting to remain anonymous.

While many online trolls would gravitate towards an image from popular culture or other subcultures, the default egg avatar is still one of the most frequently seen profile types and has been extensively analysed.

Spotting a problem

This is about to change as Twitter’s design team has announced that the egg will be ditched in favour of a genderless silhouette to try and disassociate the avatar from some of the internet’s worst characters.

In a blog post, the team said that Twitter has continually refreshed its design, but also referenced the image problem that the egg causes with many users.

“We’ve noticed patterns of behaviour with accounts that are created only to harass others – often they don’t take the time to personalise their accounts,” it said.

“This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behaviour, which isn’t fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven’t yet personalised their profile photo.”

The social media site wanted to make the new image both generic and universal, but also unbranded and temporary.

In the end, Twitter went with a floating head on a body that was specifically shaped to not look like a circle, which the team said has been associated with masculinity.

Twitter Avatar evolution

The evolution of the Twitter avatar. Image: Twitter

Twitter is ‘boring’ for trolls

By looking at bathroom signs – a thorny topic when it comes to assigned gender debates – Twitter also reduced the size of the figure’s shoulders with a grey background.

“We chose greys because they feel temporary, generic and universal,” Twitter explained.

“With that, we included a higher contrast colour combination to make this image accessible for those with visual impairments. Because of its colouring, the new profile photo also gives less prominence to accounts with a default profile photo.”

Reaction to the new change has been noticeably mixed among Twitter users, with one user going so far as to say: “Evil has a new face.”

Speaking to recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claimed that trolls are becoming disinterested in the platform as a medium for abuse.

“We found that for a lot of the trolls, Twitter is kind of boring now because it’s harder for them, it’s not fun for them anymore. That’s what we wanted.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic