The Story of The Bitmoji Museum
In the mid-2010s, I began noticing a handful of friends on Facebook posting single or multi-panel comics featuring characters that looked like themselves and their friends. Since they all shared the same distinctive artistic style, I intuited that they were using the same service to create them. “Cool,” I thought, and made a mental note to look into when I wasn’t so busy on other projects. Finally in early 2016, I made time to check out the Bitstrips.com website, create my fiancee and I as characters, and made three comics based on recent real-life experiences:
Fun! I very much looked forward to continuing this comic series, but other projects again stole my attention for the next several months. The next time I had another idea for a comic, I (like many other Bitstrips users) was saddened to discover that the website was no longer up and running. A Google News search later, I learned that in March of 2016, Toronto, Canada-based Bitstrips, Inc. was purchased by Snapchat (technically Snap, Inc.) for $100 million. Four months later in July, Snapchat shut down the Bitsrips website and phone app. At this point, I pretty much shrugged my shoulders and moved on with my life. Whatever way they planned to integrate their new acquisition, I didn’t think it very likely I’d ever find myself using Snapchat, a social media app whose typical enthusiast was half my age.
A couple and a half years went by before, again on Facebook, I noticed a friend post a strikingly good cartoon version of themself in a few single-panel comics, and I thought, “That looks like Bitstrips except with more polished art. What’s going on here?” A quick Google search brought me up to date: it turns out that back on October 29, 2014, Bitstrips had launched a stand-alone app called Bitmoji which walked you through creating a single comics character version of yourself, and then adds this comic strip version of you into hundreds of pre-designed “stickers” that can then be used in online communication, social media, on websites, etc. Like millions of others who have discovered Bitmoji, I was delighted and thrilled. Soon my whole friend circle was using and loving Bitmoji. We even set up an ongoing chat channel where no typing is allowed—one may only communicate via bitmojis.
Within weeks it was clear that Bitmoji was something of an obsession for me. Insatiably curious about just how many bitmojis existed in total, I began methodically saving them to my phone (which in turn uploads them to my Google Photos account for safekeeping). I was also motivated by fear that this wonderful new discovery might disappear unexpectedly at any moment, as the Bistrips website had, because capitalism. Soon I discovered that certain stickers never appeared in the Bitmoji app’s menu system, but could be summoned using particular search terms in the app’s search function. The existence of these “secret bitmojis” intrigued me further—how many are there, and how can I find out?
Having arrived late to the party (when I asked my brother if he had ever heard of Bitmoji, he was like “that thing everybody was into a couple of years ago?”), I was similarly intrigued when I happened across some bitmojis online that were no longer available in the app at all, secret or otherwise. How many of these “retired” bitmojis have there been, and how could I find out? It was in pondering these questions and puzzling out answers that the idea coalesced to establish The Bitmoji Museum.
If you’ve arrived here and read this far without having actually used Bitmoji before, I can’t recommend highly enough that you go get yourself the free app right now for your iPhone or Android device. The rest of you who are already fans, thanks for dropping by, and I hope you enjoy your visit to the museum.