Facebook introduced a feature on its site that will warn its 1.28 billion users about their current privacy settings. The company is doing this with a blue cartoon dinosaur who politely says, “Sorry to interrupt. You haven’t changed who can see your posts lately.”
It is a gamble by Facebook to introduce a cartoon character as its mouthpiece for user privacy, one of its most controversial aspects.
Microsoft once tried a cartoon figure, “Clippy,” a paper clip with eyeballs that was meant to help people navigate the complex features of Microsoft Word. Clippy was roundly mocked.
Years later, Twitter created a happy whale that would appear on computer screens of users of the social media service when it suffered a service interruption. It soon became known as the Fail Whale, a symbol of Twitter’s early haplessness.
According to people involved with the creation of the new icon (who could be not be named because they are not allowed to speak publicly about dinosaurs), Facebook tested several other icons before finally going with the dinosaur, which some tech writers have taken to calling a Zuckasaurus, after Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder and chief executive.
The company tried speech bubbles, which didn’t gain traction in testing, and then tried a robot. In the end, the dinosaur won.
This isn’t the first time the dinosaur has appeared on Facebook. It made its first appearance for some users several months ago, standing idly next to a pop-up feature. The blue dinosaur was also seen recently playing with some levers in a privacy section of the site.
Facebook’s blue dinosaur does not claim to be a Tyrannosaurus rex or a velociraptor. It looks more like a short Barney, the kid’s television show dinosaur. The Facebook variation also uses a slim-line laptop, which means he (or she) could be a hipster dinosaur, or hipstersaurus.
Now a little blue dinosaur could suffer the cruel fate of other tech industry cartoon characters if Facebook slips on its promise to be more mindful of users’ privacy.