“Kidnapping” bird gone viral: Duolingo

Reading Time: 2 minutes The mascot of “Duolingo,” a green bird, has gone viral on TikTok and Instagram after dark rumors surrounding the app in 2019.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Duolingo is a learning app that features lessons in math, music, and 45 languages, including fictional languages like Klingon and High Valyrian. Duolingo was founded in 2011 but did not become popular until 2012-2013. In 2013, it was rated the No. 1 free educational app in the Google Play Store. 

In 2019, the app became popular for the idea that Duo, the bird mascot, will come into a learner’s home and kidnap their family if they break their daily streak of using the app. Though the origination of these rumors is unknown, it is widely accepted that it began because the reminders from the app to learn were so aggressive.  

During April Fools of the same year, Duolingo released a video saying that they were launching a new app called Duolingo Push. In this video, they explained how they would allow Duo himself to show up to learners’ homes and remind them to do their language lessons. The kidnapping rumors skyrocketed, and people played along by begging Duo to let their families go. 

As memes have changed on the internet, Duolingo has as well. Starting in 2023, a TikTok and Instagram account was taken control of by Duo the Owl himself. Pretending to be just like a normal human being, Duo started to embrace the fact that he will kidnap families and discriminate against people that do not use his app. 

However, he got more attention when the company released a disturbing ad during Super Bowl LVIII. The cute little owl was seen farting his own face and telling people to do their language lessons. It was unbelievable to viewers that a company would spend multi-million dollars on an ad like that. 

To this day, Duolingo continues to be the most popular language app and is gaining popularity from their publicity stunts.