The Twitter Egg Is Disappearing

by Lara Rutherford-Morrison
Bethany Clarke/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Say goodbye to the famous — and often infamous — white egg on a colorful background that has been the default profile image for Twitter accounts since 2010. On Friday, Twitter announced that the Twitter egg is disappearing, to be replaced by a stylized gray figure. It’s a move that follows Twitter’s recent efforts to curb harassment and trolling on the short-form social media platform.

According to Twitter’s blog announcement of the change, the egg profile pic was originally conceived as a “playful way to reference how eggs hatch into birds that send all the Tweets you see on Twitter.” The egg, which came with a variety of colorful backgrounds, was the default profile image for new users, which most users would quickly swap out for selfies or other more personal images. While there are some Twitter users who continue to have the egg as their profile pic for legitimate reasons — such as simply not knowing how to change the image — the egg has come to be associated with trolls, bots, and other sketchy accounts.

Many Twitter users have learned the hard way to be skeptical of accounts featuring eggs, as they often seem to be the sources of trolling, harassment, and spam. “We’ve noticed patterns of behavior with accounts that are created only to harass others — often they don’t take the time to personalize their accounts,” Twitter explained in its announcement. “This has created an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behavior, which isn’t fair to people who are still new to Twitter and haven’t yet personalized their profile photo.”

And so Twitter is getting rid of the egg, and replacing it with a new default image of a stylized human figure in shades of gray:

The design process for the new default is actually sort of fascinating, because its goal was to create an image that people won’t want to use. While previous default profile pics (including the egg) were meant to be attractive and engaging, this version is intended to be the opposite because, ultimately, Twitter wants to encourage users to abandon the default and upload their own images. The company says that the design was guided by words like “generic,” “universal,” “serious,” “unbranded,” “temporary,” and “inclusive,” with the intention of creating “an empty state or placeholder.” The image is also purposefully genderless. (So, basically, it’s a lot like the Greendale Human Being mascot from Community, only not terrifying.)

The hope is that the new profile pic will be so boring, and so out of keeping with the look and feel of other Twitter profile images, that more users will go to the effort of replacing the default with their own images. Perhaps counterintuitively, the very dullness of the default pic makes it stand out. “The eggs were all these vibrant colors, and you didn’t pick up that something was missing,” Bryan Haggerty, senior manager of product design, told Fast Company. “When we put [the new image] in there, it really highlighted the absence: ‘Oh, this person doesn’t have a profile pic.’ Or ‘Oh, I probably should put my picture on here. I don’t look like I’m actually on this platform.’”

Some Twitter users have been critical of the change, arguing that getting rid of the egg image doesn’t actually get at the root of the problem of online harassment; after all, a troll who sends offensive tweets to people from behind the mask of an egg can do the exact same thing as a grey human-ish blob. Fortunately, Twitter is at least attempting to address the problem by launching tools to report and filter out abuse. In March, for example, the company released a feature that allows users to filter out egg accounts; the tool doesn’t prevent these accounts from tweeting, but it at least allows people to choose not to see these tweets in their feeds. Now that the egg is gone, you’ll still be able to filter out tweets from accounts using the default profile pic.