Bitstrips gets bought for millions. Stops doing the thing it’s famous for?! What the hell?! #BringBackBitstrips
Anyone that follows my social media feed, particularly my Facebook and Instagram, will know that I absolutely adore Bitstrips cartoons. In fact even regular readers of this blog will know that I have more than frequently used Bitstrips cartoons to illustrate my rantings here – just scroll down and you’ll find dozens of examples.
What is Bitstrips? Well they are readily customisable cartoons and comics featuring an avatar representation of yourself that you can manipulate either through a Facebook App or a downloadable app on your phone. Many people ask me where and by whom I had these illustrations drawn – they are that good.
So what an absolute delight it is for me as a non-cartoonist and crap artist to be able to exercise some creativity and create my own comic-style illustrations. And what an absolute tragedy and travesty that it seems I can no longer do that, or at least not for much longer.
Try the app on Facebook now and you’ll find that it no longer accesses Bitstrips and instead asks you to download the spin-off Bitmoji App. Go to App downloads on your phone, and you’ll no longer see the Bitstrips App only the Bitmoji one.
Fortunately I still have the Bitstrips App on my iPhone, which is what I used to create most of the cartoons you see here now, but that’s no longer being updated with fresh material (previously usually about half a dozen or so new customisable scenarios per day) and at some point they’ll probably stop maintaining it.
What predates even all these Apps is the original Bitstrips.com website, but again, go to it now and it only shows an advert for Bitmojis. However, type in: www.Bitstrips.com/pageone/ and, presently at least, you can still create new comics from scratch, like the one below. Though unlike the Bitstrips App, these take far more time and effort to put together.
What is Bitmoji then? Well that’s a spinoff of Bitstrips that uses your own Avatar to create a series of Emojis. These are non-customisable, apart from you being able to change your Avatar’s clothes – which now all appear to be sponsored packs, for example Steve Madden and Bergdorf Goodman. Additionally a lot of the Bitmojis have sponsored themes, often centred around movies, so you could have Star Wars or Batman V Superman themed ones.
Nothing wrong with this, of course. I would certainly be the last one to begrudged a start-up finding ways to make money. And Bitmojis are still very cool, and I use them just as much as I did Bitstrips, perhaps even more. They are a lot of fun, particularly in messaging.
Now that brings me to what’s happened to Bitstrips. Snapchat happened. The popular social media messaging service recently bought Bitstrips for a whopping $100m or so it’s reported. On the face of it, this appears to be brilliant news. A superbly conceived and executed start-up has received a just reward thanks to its excellent and innovative offering (bravo!) and now the service will at some point be rolled out on that very fun-to-use Snapchat App – I can’t wait, I’m already on there, find me by user name shahzad_sheikh.
Unfortunately the first thing that’s happened is – or so it appears – that the bean counters moved in and immediately killed the part of the operation that, I’m guessing, doesn’t attract sponsorship, focussing instead on the Bitmoji side, which does. But with that much money to throw at it, you’d think they could instead not only continue, but bolster and boost the Bitstrips service that attracted all us die-hard users in the first place.
Now I could be wrong in my assumption. Perhaps the reason it’s come off Facebook is because Snapchat and Facebook are rivals (but then why is the downloadable app no longer available) and it may be that they have in fact taken it down in order to launch a whole new and improved version in the coming months. I will be ecstatic if that happens!
But if that’s not the case I, and many many other Bitstrips fans and users, will be totally gutted and somewhat resentful. It would seem a terrible waste of an opportunity, where an excellent service finds itself regressing as a direct result of being a victim of its own success.
Please Snapchat, be smart, take something that’s brilliant and make it even better, DO NOT kill it. And there are almost certainly possibilities to get Bitstrips cartoons sponsored too – personally I can’t wait to feature my avatar in the Star Trek themed Bitstrips which should surely be realised this 50th anniversary year, especially with the new movie coming out. Make it so!
[UPDATE] OH NO!!! Now they’ve even taken down and discontinued www.Bitstrips.com/pageone/ 😦
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