Not too long ago, a whole bunch of Twitter users made their avatar images green to show support for the Iranian people after the recent elections there. I’m not sure it had any effect, but it did (to my knowledge) introduce the concept of using a profile image overlay to communicate a message to your followers.
Recent startup Avartize picks up on this principle, and allows you to not only pick a predefined overlay (there are a whole bunch available already), but also allows your to create your own. Now everyone can start a campaign like the #iranelection one. All you have to do is become an ‘avartizer’.
For the average user, Avartize allows you to add an overlay in just a few easy steps. It even keeps your ‘old’ avatar, so you can revert back to it or choose another overlay without accidentally stacking multiple over each other. That could soon get messy, although I have to admit I found out that it works this way when I tried applying all the overlays to my profile image to see just how big that mess would be :). Unfortunately for me, the Sneaker Entrepreneurs were way ahead of me, which goes to show how well-executed the website is.
Adding an overlay may be great fun or politically important at times, but I think the name ‘avartize’ hints at its commercial potential as well. I can imagine advertisers creating Avartize campaigns where having a certain overlay qualifies you to win a price, or gets you a free sample product. I can’t believe this domain name was available up until now, and the concept basically unexplored. The potential is overwhelming. I can’t wait to see where this will go.