Originating on Japanese mobile phones in 1997, emoji became increasingly popular worldwide in the 2010s after being added to several mobile operating systems. They are now considered to be a large part of popular culture in the West. In 2015, Oxford Dictionaries named the Face with Tears of Joy emoji (😂) the Word of the Year.
The origin of emoji pictograms (1990s)
|Assigned||1,329 code points|
|Unicode version history|
|Note: These counts are for emoji that are single Unicode characters; many more emoji are composed of sequences of two or more characters. Emoji were first defined in Unicode 6.0, and pre-6.0 characters were only defined as emoji in 6.0 or later.|
The emoji was predated by the emoticon, a basic text-based version of the now established Unicode emoji language and likely took inspiration from pictograms. Numerous attempts in the 1990s were made in Europe, Japan, and the United States to enhance the basic emoticon to make it more desirable for use. The emoji is based on the premise of using text markers to form images. This dates back to the 1960s, when Russian novelist and professor Vladimir Nabokov stated in an interview with The New York Times "I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile — some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket." However, it wasn't until the 1980s when computer scientist Scott Fahlman invented the emoticon, by suggesting that :-) and :-( could replace language.
In the early 1990s, there were a number of digital smileys and emoticons that were used in fonts, pictograms, graphical representations, and even welcome messages. The font Wingdings, designed and used on Microsoft platforms, included pictographs such as smiley and sad faces, and first appeared on Windows and other Microsoft platforms from 1990 onwards. In late 1995, it was announced in the French newspaper, Le Monde, that telecoms company Alcatel would be launching a mobile phone to be released in 1996. The newspaper article displays the BC 600, with the welcome screen displaying a digital smiley face. Versions of the Nokia phone also contained sets of graphics, which in 2001 they were still referring to as smileys.
Although Wingdings and Webdings, as custom-encoded pi fonts, could be used to send pictographs in rich text messages to platforms providing those fonts, they would appear as letters or other symbols where this was not supported. For example, a national park pictogram (🏞) was available in Webdings at 0x50, which corresponded to the capital letter P encoded in ASCII. In the late 1990s, mobile phone carriers in Japan implemented emoji sets for use on their platforms; these Japanese cellular emoji differed from pi fonts in supporting both pictographs and regular text in a single character encoding system, allowing them to be freely mixed in plain text messages.
Emojipedia released findings in early 2019 stating they believed the SkyWalker DP-211SW, a mobile telephone manufactured by J-Phone which supported a set of 90 emoji, to be the first phone known to contain a set of emojis as part of its typeface, dating it back to 1997. These included emoji which remain popular today, such as the Pile of Poo. The J-Phone DP-211SW didn't sell well due to its high retail price, and therefore mass-market adoption of emoji didn't take place at the time. J-Phone later became Vodafone Japan and is now SoftBank Mobile; a later, expanded version of the SoftBank emoji set was the basis for the emoji selection available on early iPhones.
A highly influential early set of 176 cellular emoji was created by Shigetaka Kurita in 1999, and deployed on NTT DoCoMo's i-mode, a Mobile web platform. They were intended to help facilitate electronic communication, and to serve as a distinguishing feature from other services. Due to their influence, Kurita's designs were once frequently claimed to be the first cellular emoji; however, Kurita has denied this to be the case. According to interviews, he took inspiration from weather pictograms, used to depict the weather conditions at any given time. He also drew inspiration from Chinese characters and street sign pictograms. Kurita's work is now displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. An additional 76 emoji, besides the 176 basic emoji, were added in phones supporting C-HTML 4.0.
The first set of J-Phone emoji were in black and white, while later revisions introduced multicolor glyphs, whereas Kurita's were brightly colored, albeit with a single color per glyph. Both sets were made up of generic images that depicted numbers, sports, the time, moon phases and the weather. Both Kurita's and SoftBank's designs were 12×12-pixel emoji pictograms. A third notable emoji set was introduced by Japanese mobile phone brand au by KDDI, which was influential on early Google emoji designs.
Various, often incompatible, character encoding schemes were developed by the different mobile providers in Japan for their own emoji sets. When transmitted in Shift JIS on NTT DoCoMo, emoji symbols are specified as a two-byte sequence in the range F89F through F9FC (as expressed in hexadecimal). Emoji pictograms on au by KDDI are specified using the IMG tag, encoded in Shift JIS between F340 and F7FC, or encoded in extended JIS X 0208 between 7521 and 7B73. SoftBank Mobile emoji support colors and animation, and use different formats on 2G versus 3G: in the 2G format, they are encoded in sequences using the Escape and Shift In control characters, whereas in the 3G format, they are encoded in Shift JIS between F741 and FBDE. The SoftBank 3G format collides with the overlapping ranges used by the other vendors: for example, the Shift JIS representation F797 is used for a convenience store (🏪) by SoftBank, but for a wristwatch (⌚️) by KDDI.
DoCoMo and SoftBank also developed their own schemes for representing their emoji sets in extended JIS X 0208 between 7522 and 7E38. These often matched the encodings of similar KDDI emoji where they existed: for example, the camera (📷) was represented in Shift JIS as F8E2 by DoCoMo, F6EE by KDDI, and F948 by SoftBank, but as 7670 in JIS by all three. All three vendors also developed schemes for encoding their emoji in the Unicode Private Use Area: DoCoMo, for example, used the range U+E63E through U+E757.
Development of emoji sets (2000–2009)
The basic 12×12 pixel emoji in Japan grew in popularity across various platforms over the next decade. This was aided by the popularity of DoCoMo i-mode, which for many was the origins of the smartphone.[clarification needed] The i-mode service also saw the introduction of emojis in conversation form on messenger apps. By 2004, i-mode had 40 million subscribers, meaning numerous people were exposed to the emoji for the first time between 2000 and 2004. The popularity of i-mode led to other manufacturers competing with similar offerings and therefore developed their own emoji sets. While emoji adoption was high in Japan during this time, the companies failed to collaborate and come up with a uniform set of emojis to be used across all platforms in the country.
The Universal Coded Character Set (Unicode), overseen by the Unicode Consortium and ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2, had already been established as the international standard for text representation (ISO/IEC 10646) since 1993, although variants of Shift JIS remained relatively common in Japan. Unicode included several characters which would subsequently be classified as emoji, including some from North American or Western European sources such as ITC Zapf Dingbats or DOS code page 437. Unicode's coverage of written characters was extended several times by new editions during the 2000s, with little interest in incorporating the Japanese cellular emoji sets (which were deemed out of scope), although symbol characters which would subsequently be classified as emoji continued to be added. For example, Unicode 4.0 release contained 16 new emojis, which included direction arrows, a warning triangle, and an eject button. Besides Zapf Dingbats, other dingbat fonts such as Wingdings or Webdings also included additional pictographic symbols in their own custom pi font encodings; unlike Zapf Dingbats, however, many of these would not be available as Unicode emoji until 2014.
The Smiley Company developed The Smiley Dictionary, which was launched in 2001. The desktop platform was aimed at allowing people to insert smileys as text when sending emails and writing on a desktop computer. The smiley toolbar offered a variety of symbols and smileys and was used on platforms such as MSN Messenger. Nokia as one of the largest telecoms companies globally at the time, were still referring to today's emoji sets as smileys in 2001. The digital smiley movement was headed up by Nicolas Loufrani, the CEO of The Smiley Company. He created a smiley toolbar, which was available at smileydictionary.com during the early 2000s to be sent as emojis are today.
Mobile providers in both the United States and Europe began discussions on how to introduce their own emoji sets from 2004 onwards. It wasn't until Google employees requested that Unicode look into the possibility of a uniform emoji set did many companies begin to take the emoji seriously. Apple quickly followed and began to collaborate with not only Google, but also providers in Europe and Japan. In August 2007, Mark Davis and his colleagues Kat Momoi and Markus Scherer wrote the first draft for consideration by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) to introduce emojis into the Unicode standard. The UTC, having previously deemed emoji to be out of scope for Unicode, made the decision to broaden this scope, to enable compatibility with the Japanese cellular carrier formats which were becoming more widespread. Peter Edberg and Yasuo Kida joined the collaborative efforts from Apple Inc. shortly after and the official UTC proposal as co-authors came in January 2009.
Separately, a proposal had been submitted in 2008 to add the ARIB extended characters used in broadcasting in Japan to Unicode. This included several pictographic symbols. These were added in Unicode 5.2 in 2009, a year before the cellular emoji sets were fully added; they include several characters which either also appeared amongst the cellular emoji or were subsequently classified as emoji.
Throughout 2009, members of the Unicode Consortium and national standardization bodies of various countries gave feedback and proposed changes to the international standardization of the emoji. The feedback from various bodies in the United States, Europe, and Japan agreed on a set of 722 emojis as the standard set, which would be released in 2010 as Unicode 6.0.
Modern-day emojis (2010–present)
The introduction of the new emojis by Unicode in 2009, saw the introduction of some of the most notable emojis used today. The introduction of the new emojis had numerous teething issues, with feedback from many on the cultural differences between different countries and also the misuse. Famously, both the peach and the eggplant were used for other meanings and others were often used for criminal purposes. This led to the gun emoji getting removed and replaced with a water gun.
The popularity of emoji has caused pressure from vendors and international markets to add additional designs into the Unicode standard to meet the demands of different cultures. Unicode 7.0 added approximately 250 emoji, many from the Webdings and Wingdings fonts. Some characters now defined as emoji are inherited from a variety of pre-Unicode messenger systems not only used in Japan, including Yahoo and MSN Messenger. Unicode 8.0 added another 41 emoji, including articles of sports equipment such as the cricket bat, food items such as the taco, signs of the Zodiac, new facial expressions, and symbols for places of worship.
There are several sources of emoji characters. A single character can exist in multiple sources, and characters from a source were unified with existing characters where appropriate: for example, the "shower" weather symbol (☔️) from the ARIB source was unified with an existing umbrella with raindrops character, which had been added for KPS 9566 compatibility. The emoji characters named "Rain" ("雨", ame) from all three Japanese carriers were in turn unified with the ARIB character. However, the Unicode Consortium groups the most significant sources of emoji into four categories:
|Source category||Abbreviations||Unicode version (year)||Included sources||Example|
|Zapf Dingbats||ZDings, z||1.0 (1991)||ITC Zapf Dingbats Series 100||❣️ (U+2763 ← 0xA3)|
|ARIB||ARIB, a||5.2 (2008)||ARIB STD-B24 Volume 1 extended Shift JIS||⛩️ (U+26E9 ← 0xEE4B)|
|Japanese carriers||JCarrier, j||6.0 (2010)||NTT DoCoMo mobile Shift JIS||🎠 (U+1F3A0 ← 0xF8DA)|
|au by KDDI mobile Shift JIS||📌 (U+1F4CC ← 0xF78A)|
|SoftBank 3G mobile Shift JIS||💒 (U+1F492 ← 0xFB7D)|
|Wingdings and Webdings||WDings, w||7.0 (2014)||Webdings||🛳️ (U+1F6F3 ← 0x54)|
|Wingdings||🏵️ (U+1F3F5 ← 0x7B)|
|Wingdings 2||🖍️ (U+1F58D ← 0x24)|
|Wingdings 3||▶️ (U+25B6 ← 0x75)[a]|
Corporate demand for emoji standardization has placed pressures on the Unicode Consortium, with some members complaining that it had overtaken the group's traditional focus on standardizing characters used for minority languages and transcribing historical records. Conversely, the Consortium recognises that public desire for emoji support has put pressure on vendors to improve their Unicode support, which is especially true for characters outside the Basic Multilingual Plane, thus leading to better support for Unicode's historic and minority scripts in deployed software.
Emoji characters vary slightly between platforms within the limits in meaning defined by the Unicode specification, as companies have tried to provide artistic presentations of ideas and objects. For example, following an Apple tradition, the calendar emoji on Apple products always shows July 17, the date in 2002 Apple announced its iCal calendar application for macOS. This led some Apple product users to initially nickname July 17 "World Emoji Day". Other emoji fonts show different dates or do not show a specific one.
Some Apple emoji are very similar to the SoftBank standard, since SoftBank was the first Japanese network on which the iPhone launched. For example, U+1F483 💃 DANCER is female on Apple and SoftBank standards but male or gender-neutral on others.
Journalists have noted that the ambiguity of emoji has allowed them to take on culture-specific meanings not present in the original glyphs. For example, U+1F485 💅 NAIL POLISH has been described as being used in English-language communities to signify "non-caring fatuousness" and "anything from shutting haters down to a sense of accomplishment". Unicode manuals sometimes provide notes on auxiliary meanings of an object to guide designers on how emoji may be used, for example noting that some users may expect U+1F4BA 💺 SEAT to stand for "a reserved or ticketed seat, as for an airplane, train, or theater".
Oxford Dictionaries named U+1F602 😂 FACE WITH TEARS OF JOY its 2015 Word of the Year. Oxford noted that 2015 had seen a sizable increase in the use of the word "emoji" and recognized its impact on popular culture. Oxford Dictionaries President Caspar Grathwohl expressed that "traditional alphabet scripts have been struggling to meet the rapid-fire, visually focused demands of 21st Century communication. It's not surprising that a pictographic script like emoji has stepped in to fill those gaps—it's flexible, immediate, and infuses tone beautifully." SwiftKey found that "Face with Tears of Joy" was the most popular emoji across the world. The American Dialect Society declared U+1F346 🍆 AUBERGINE to be the "Most Notable Emoji" of 2015 in their Word of the Year vote.
Some emoji are specific to Japanese culture, such as a bowing businessman (U+1F647 🙇 ), the shoshinsha mark used to indicate a beginner driver (U+1F530 🔰 ), a white flower (U+1F4AE 💮 ) used to denote "brilliant homework", or a group of emoji representing popular foods: ramen noodles (U+1F35C 🍜 ), dango (U+1F361 🍡 ), onigiri (U+1F359 🍙 ), Japanese curry (U+1F35B 🍛 ), and sushi (U+1F363 🍣 ). Unicode Consortium founder Mark Davis compared the use of emoji to a developing language, particularly mentioning the American use of eggplant (U+1F346 🍆 ) to represent a phallus. Some linguists have classified emoji and emoticons as discourse markers.
In December 2015 a sentiment analysis of emoji was published, and the Emoji Sentiment Ranking 1.0 was provided. In 2016, a musical about emoji premiered in Los Angeles. The computer-animated The Emoji Movie was released in summer 2017.
In January 2017, in what is believed to be the first large-scale study of emoji usage, researchers at the University of Michigan analysed over 1.2 billion messages input via the Kika Emoji Keyboard and announced that the Face With Tears of Joy was the most popular emoji. The Heart and the Heart eyes emoji stood second and third respectively. The study also found that the French use heart emoji the most. People in countries like Australia, France and the Czech Republic used more happy emoji, while this was not so for people in Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, where people used more negative emoji in comparison to cultural hubs known for restraint and self-discipline, like Turkey, France and Russia.
There has been discussion among legal experts on whether or not emoji could be admissible as evidence in court trials. Furthermore, as emoji continue to develop and grow as a "language" of symbols, there may also be the potential of the formation of emoji "dialects". Emoji are being used as more than just to show reactions and emotions. Snapchat have even incorporated emoji in their trophy and friends system with each emoji showing a complex meaning.
Emoji that further modern causes
In the second part of 2019, a period emoji will be released that is intended to help break the stigma of menstruation. In addition to normalizing periods, it will also be relevant to describe medical topics such as donating blood and other blood-related activities.
A mosquito emoji was added in 2018 to raise awareness for diseases spread by the insect, such as dengue and malaria.
Emoji communication problems
Research has shown that emoji are often misunderstood. In some cases, this misunderstanding is related to how the actual emoji design is interpreted by the viewer; in other cases, the emoji that was sent is not shown in the same way on the receiving side.
The first issue relates to the cultural or contextual interpretation of the emoji. When the author picks an emoji, they think about it in a certain way, but the same character may not trigger the same thoughts in the mind of the receiver. (See also Models of communication.)
For example, people in China have developed a system for using emoji subversively, so that a smiley face could be sent to convey a despising, mocking, and even obnoxious attitude, as the orbicularis oculi (the muscle near that upper eye corner) on the face of the emoji does not move, and the orbicularis oris (the one near the mouth) tightens, which is believed to be a sign of suppressing a smile.
The second problem relates to technology and branding. When an author of a message picks an emoji from a list, it is normally encoded in a non-graphical manner during the transmission, and if the author and the reader do not use the same software or operating system for their devices, the reader's device may visualize the same emoji in a different way. Small changes to a character's look may completely alter its perceived meaning with the receiver. As an example, in April 2020, British actress and presenter Jameela Jamil posted a tweet from her iPhone using the Face with Hand Over Mouth emoji (🤭) as part of a comment on people shopping for food during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Apple's iOS, the emoji expression is neutral and pensive, but on other platforms the emoji shows as a giggling face. Many fans were initially upset thinking that she, as a well off celebrity, was mocking poor people, but this was not her intended meaning.
Some emoji have been involved in controversy due to their perceived meanings. Multiple arrests and imprisonments have followed usage of pistol (U+1F52B 🔫 ), knife (U+1F5E1 🗡 ), and bomb (U+1F4A3 💣 ) emoji in ways that were deemed by authorities to constitute credible threats.
In the lead-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics, the Unicode Consortium considered proposals to add several Olympic-related emoji, including medals and events such as handball and water polo. By October 2015, these candidate emoji included "rifle" (U+1F946 🥆 ) and "modern pentathlon" (U+1F93B 🤻 ). However, in 2016, Apple and Microsoft opposed these two emoji, and the characters were added without emoji presentations, meaning that software is expected to render them in black-and-white rather than color, and emoji-specific software such as onscreen keyboards will generally not include them. In addition, while the original incarnations of the modern pentathlon emoji depicted its five events, including a man pointing a gun, the final glyph contains a person riding a horse, along with a laser pistol target in the corner.
On August 1, 2016, Apple announced that in iOS 10, the pistol emoji (U+1F52B 🔫 ) would be changed from a realistic revolver to a water pistol. Conversely, the following day, Microsoft pushed out an update to Windows 10 that changed its longstanding depiction of the pistol emoji as a toy ray-gun to a real revolver. Microsoft stated that the change was made to bring the glyph more in line with industry-standard designs and customer expectations. By 2018, most major platforms such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung, Facebook, and Twitter had transitioned their rendering of the pistol emoji to match Apple's water gun implementation. Apple's change of depiction from a realistic gun to a toy guy was criticised by among others the editor of Emojipedia, because it could lead to messages appearing differently to the receiver than the sender had intended. Insider's Rob Price said it created the potential for "serious miscommunication across different platforms", and asked "What if a joke sent from an Apple user to a Google user is misconstrued because of differences in rendering? Or if a genuine threat sent by a Google user to an Apple user goes unreported because it is taken as a joke?"
The eggplant (British English: aubergine) emoji (U+1F346 🍆 ) has also seen controversy due to its being used, almost solely[better source needed] in North America, to represent a penis. Beginning in December 2014, the hashtag #EggplantFridays began to rise to popularity on Instagram for use in marking photos featuring clothed or unclothed penises. This became such a popular trend that beginning in April 2015, Instagram disabled the ability to search for not only the #EggplantFridays tag, but also other eggplant-containing hashtags, including simply #eggplant and #🍆.
The peach emoji (U+1F351 🍑 ) has likewise been used as a euphemistic icon for buttocks, with a 2016 Emojipedia analysis revealing that only 7% of English language tweets with the peach emoji refer to the actual fruit. In 2016, Apple attempted to redesign the emoji to less resemble buttocks. This was met with fierce backlash in beta testing and Apple reversed its decision by the time it went live to the public.
In December 2017, a lawyer in Delhi, India, threatened to file suit against WhatsApp for allowing use of the middle finger emoji (U+1F595 🖕 ) on the basis that the company is "directly abetting the use of an offensive, lewd, obscene gesture" in violation of the Indian Penal Code.
Emoji versus text presentation
Unicode defines variation sequences for many of its emoji to indicate their desired presentation.
Emoji characters can have two main kinds of presentation:
- an emoji presentation, with colorful and perhaps whimsical shapes, even animated
- a text presentation, such as black & white— Unicode Technical Report #51: Unicode Emoji
Specifying the desired presentation is done by following the base emoji with either U+FE0E VARIATION SELECTOR-15 (VS15) for text or U+FE0F VARIATION SELECTOR-16 (VS16) for emoji-style.
Five symbol modifier characters were added with Unicode 8.0 to provide a range of skin tones for human emoji. These modifiers are called EMOJI MODIFIER FITZPATRICK TYPE-1-2, -3, -4, -5, and -6 (U+1F3FB–U+1F3FF): 🏻 🏼 🏽 🏾 🏿. They are based on the Fitzpatrick scale for classifying human skin color. Human emoji that are not followed by one of these five modifiers should be displayed in a generic, non-realistic skin tone, such as bright yellow (■), blue (■), or gray (■). Non-human emoji (like U+26FD ⛽ FUEL PUMP) are unaffected by the Fitzpatrick modifiers. As of Unicode 13.0, Fitzpatrick modifiers can be used with 118 human emoji spread across six blocks: Dingbats, Emoticons, Miscellaneous Symbols, Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs, Supplemental Symbols and Pictographs, and Transport and Map Symbols.
The following table shows both the Unicode characters and the open-source "Twemoji" images, designed by Twitter:
For example, the sequence U+1F468 MAN, U+200D ZWJ, U+1F469 WOMAN, U+200D ZWJ, U+1F467 GIRL (👨👩👧) could be displayed as a single emoji depicting a family with a man, a woman, and a girl if the implementation supports it. Systems that don't support it would ignore the ZWJs, showing the base emoji in the sequence: U+1F468 MAN, U+1F469 WOMAN, U+1F467 GIRL (👨👩👧).
Unicode previously maintained a catalog of emoji ZWJ sequences that are supported on at least one commonly available platform. The consortium has since switched to only document sequences that are recommended for general interchange (RGI).
Unicode 13.0 represents emoji using 1,367 characters spread across 24 blocks, of which 26 are Regional Indicator Symbols that combine in pairs to form flag emoji, and 12 (#, * and 0–9) are base characters for keycap emoji sequences:
637 of the 768 code points in the Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs block are considered emoji. 240 of the 254 code points in the Supplemental Symbols and Pictographs block are considered emoji. All of the 57 code points in the Symbols and Pictographs Extended-A block are considered emoji. All of the 80 code points in the Emoticons block are considered emoji. 101 of the 114 code points in the Transport and Map Symbols block are considered emoji. 83 of the 256 code points in the Miscellaneous Symbols block are considered emoji. 33 of the 192 code points in the Dingbats block are considered emoji.
|List of emoji|
Additional emoji can be found in the following Unicode blocks: Arrows (8 code points considered emoji), Basic Latin (12), CJK Symbols and Punctuation (2), Enclosed Alphanumeric Supplement (41), Enclosed Alphanumerics (1), Enclosed CJK Letters and Months (2), Enclosed Ideographic Supplement (15), General Punctuation (2), Geometric Shapes (8), Geometric Shapes Extended (12), Latin-1 Supplement (2), Letterlike Symbols (2), Mahjong Tiles (1), Miscellaneous Symbols and Arrows (7), Miscellaneous Technical (18), Playing Cards (1), and Supplemental Arrows-B (2).
Some vendors, most notably Microsoft, Samsung and HTC, add emoji presentation to some other existing Unicode characters or coin their own ZWJ sequences.
Microsoft displays all Mahjong tiles (U+1F000‥2B, not just U+1F004 🀄 MAHJONG TILE RED DRAGON) and alternative card suits (U+2661 ♡ , U+2662 ♢ , U+2664 ♤ , U+2666 ♦ ) as emoji. They also support additional pencils (U+270E ✎ , U+2710 ✐ ) and a heart-shaped bullet (U+2765 ❥ ).
While only U+261D ☝ is officially an emoji, Microsoft and Samsung add the other three directions as well (U+261C ☜ , U+261E ☞ , U+261F ☟ ). Both vendors pair the standard checked ballot box emoji U+2611 ☑ with its crossed variant U+2612 ☒ , but only Samsung also has the empty ballot box U+2610 ☐ .
Samsung almost completely covers the rest of the Miscellaneous Symbols block (U+2600‥FF) as emoji, which includes Chess pieces, game die faces, some traffic sign as well as genealogical and astronomical symbols for instance.
HTC supports most additional pictographs from the Miscellaneous Symbols and Pictographs (U+1F300‥5FF) and Transport and Map Symbols (U+1F680‥FF) blocks. Some of them are also shown as emoji on Samsung devices.
The open source projects Emojidex and Emojitwo are trying to cover all of these extensions established by major vendors.
The exact appearance of emoji is not prescribed but varies between fonts, in the same way that normal typefaces can display letters differently. For example, the Apple Color Emoji typeface is proprietary to Apple, and can only be used on Apple devices (without additional hacking). Different computing companies have developed their own fonts to display emoji, some of which have been open-sourced to permit their reuse. Both colour and monochrome emoji typefaces exist, as well as at least one animated design.
Supplementary Multilingual Plane support
Most, but not all, emoji are included in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (SMP) of Unicode. The SMP also includes, for example, ancient scripts such as Egyptian hieroglyphs, minority scripts such as Osage, and special-use characters such as Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols.
Unicode was originally designed as a 16-bit encoding, which could be represented in a pure 16-bit form known as UCS-2. This corresponds to the Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP) of the Universal Coded Character Set. In Unicode 2.0, this was expanded to 17 planes (numbered 0 through 16, where the BMP is plane 0), and the first non-BMP characters were allocated in Unicode 3.1. UCS-2 is now obsolete and deprecated in favour of UTF-16, a variable-width encoding which follows UCS-2 for the BMP, but extends it with four-byte codes representing non-BMP characters. Non-BMP characters (in the SMP and in other supplementary planes, such as the Supplementary Ideographic Plane) now number in the tens of thousands.
Some systems introduced prior to the advent of Unicode emoji were only designed to support characters in the BMP, on the assumption that non-BMP characters would rarely be encountered, although failure to properly handle characters outside of the BMP precludes Unicode compliance. For example, earlier versions of MySQL supported UCS-2 and a variant of UTF-8 excluding four-byte codes, thus not handling non-BMP characters correctly. Support for UTF-32 and full support for UTF-16 and UTF-8 (under the name
utf8mb4) was added in version 5.5, with
utf8 retained as an alias for the up-to-three-byte version, although this is intended to be changed in the future.
The introduction of Unicode emoji created an incentive for vendors to improve their support for non-BMP characters. The Unicode Consortium notes that "[b]ecause of the demand for emoji, many implementations have upgraded their Unicode support substantially."
Font format support
Any operating system that supports adding additional fonts to the system can add an emoji-supporting font. However, inclusion of colorful emoji in existing font formats requires dedicated support for color glyphs. Not all operating systems have support for color fonts, so in these cases emoji might have to be rendered as black-and-white line art or not at all. There are four different formats used for multi-color glyphs in an SFNT font. OpenType version 1.8 standardizes all four.
CBDT is a multi-color raster format, using raw bitmap data or embedded PNG data. It requires an auxiliary
CBLCtable to hold details about the image format, and as such the format is sometimes called "CBDT/CBLC".
COLR is a multi-color vector format, using multiple single-color OpenType (TrueType or CFF) glyphs. A number of glyphs are assigned individual block colours and layered, and associated with a specified single-colour base glyph. The layered glyphs are shown instead of the base glyph when the character is displayed as multi-color. Colors are referenced from a palette, which is defined in a separate
CPALtable, and as such the format is sometimes called "COLR/CPAL".
sbixis a multi-color raster format, using embedded JPEG, PNG or TIFF images. Including multi-color raster or vector glyphs as embedded PDF files is also permitted by the Apple Advanced Typography specification, but not by the OpenType specification, and is planned for future releases of iOS and macOS.
- SVG-in-OpenType (or OpenType-SVG) is a multi-color vector format (with support for embedded rasters), using embedded SVG images. It requires the inclusion of a single-color TrueType or CFF glyph as well, serving as a fallback. Being based on SVG, it includes support for color gradients. An OpenType-SVG font may use a
CPALpalette, similarly to
COLR; however, this is not required.
COLR format was introduced by Microsoft, with Windows 8.1. The
CBDT format was introduced by Google and is supported on Android, while the competing
sbix format was introduced by Apple, and is supported on macOS and iOS. SVG-in-OpenType was designed by Mozilla and Adobe as an industry standard.
Some support for SVG-in-OpenType support has been added to newer updates of Windows 10, and to newer versions of iOS and macOS. DirectWrite has supported all four since Windows 10 Anniversary Update; however, Windows only supports a subset of SVG-in-OpenType. On the web, SVG-in-OpenType is supported by recent versions of Firefox, Safari and Microsoft Edge, but not by Google Chrome; Edge and Safari additionally support
sbix, while Edge and Chrome support
CBDT and all four support
This means that color fonts may need to be supplied in several formats to be usable on multiple operating systems, or in multiple applications.
Internationalized domain names
A limited number of top-level domains allow registration of domain names containing emoji characters. Emoji-containing subdomains are also possible under any top-level domain.
Vendors and platforms
Google (Android and Chrome OS)
Google's Noto fonts project includes the Noto Color Emoji font, which supplies colour glyphs for emoji characters. Chrome OS, through its inclusion of the Noto fonts, supports the emoji set introduced through Unicode 6.2. As of Chrome OS 41, Noto Color Emoji is the default font for most emoji.
Android devices support emoji differently depending on the operating system version. Google added native emoji support to Android in July 2013 with Android 4.3, and to the Google Keyboard in November 2013 for devices running Android 4.4 and later. Android 7.0 Nougat added Unicode 9 emoji, skin tone modifiers, and a redesign of many existing emoji.
Emoji are also supported by the Google Hangouts application (independent of the keyboard in use), in both Hangouts and SMS modes. Several third-party messaging and keyboard applications (such as IQQI Keyboard) for Android devices provide plugins that allow the use of emoji. Some apps, e.g. WhatsApp, come with Apple emoji for internal use.[clarification needed] With Android 8 (Oreo), Google added a compatibility library that, if included by app developers, makes the latest Noto emoji available on any platform since Android 4.3.
Stock Android systems include the Noto glyphs for emoji characters, although individual social media apps may use their own glyphs instead. However, mobile phone vendors HTC and LG deployed variants of NotoColorEmoji.ttf with custom glyphs prior to 2017, and Samsung still does. Some Japanese mobile carriers used to equip branded Android devices with emoji glyphs that were closer to the original ones, but apparently have stopped updating these circa 2015.[clarification needed]
Apple first introduced emoji to their desktop operating system with the release of OS X 10.7 Lion, in 2011. Users can view emoji characters sent through email and messaging applications, which are commonly shared by mobile users, as well as any other application. Users can create emoji symbols using the "Characters" special input panel from almost any native application by selecting the "Edit" menu and pulling down to "Special Characters", or by the key combination ⌘ Command+⌥ Option+T. The desktop OS uses the Apple Color Emoji font that was introduced earlier in iOS. This provides users with full color pictographs.
The emoji keyboard was first available in Japan with the release of iPhone OS version 2.2 in 2008. The emoji keyboard was not officially made available outside of Japan until iOS version 5.0. From iPhone OS 2.2 through to iOS 4.3.5 (2011), those outside Japan could access the keyboard but had to use a third party app to enable it. The first of such apps was developed by Josh Gare; emoji beginning to be embraced by popular culture outside Japan has been attributed to these apps. iOS was updated to support Fitzpatrick skin-tone modifiers with version 8.3.
On July 17, 2018, for the World Emoji Day, Apple announced that it will be adding 70 more emoji in its 2018 iOS update, including the long-awaited, red hair, white hair, curly hair and bald emoji.
On September 12, 2017, Apple announced that the Messages app on the iPhones with Face ID would get "animoji", which are versions of standard emoji that are custom-animated with the use of facial motion capture to reflect the sender's expressions. These animoji can also utilize lip sync to appear to speak audio messages recorded by the sender. Apple had created 3D models of all standard emoji prior to its late-2016 OS updates from which the static default 2D graphics had been rendered. A select set of these models are being reused for creating still images and short animations dynamically.
Ubuntu 18.04 and Fedora 28 support color emoji by default, using Noto Color Emoji. Some Linux distributions require the installation of extra fonts. Color emoji are supported by FreeType and Cairo.
An update for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 brought a subset of the monochrome Unicode set to those operating systems as part of the Segoe UI Symbol font. As of Windows 8.1 Preview, the Segoe UI Emoji font is included, which supplies full-color pictographs. The plain Segoe UI font lacks emoji characters, whereas Segoe UI Symbol and Segoe UI Emoji include them.
Emoji characters are accessed through the onscreen keyboard's "smiley" key.
Differently from macOS and iOS, color glyphs are only supplied when the application supports Microsoft's DirectWrite API, and Segoe UI Emoji is explicitly declared, otherwise monochrome glyphs appear. Microsoft's COLR/CPAL format for multi-color fonts such as Segoe UI Emoji is supported by the current versions of several web browsers on Windows (including Firefox, Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge), but not by many graphics applications.
Social media platforms
Prior to October 2017, Facebook had different sets for the main site and for its Messenger service, where only the former provides complete coverage. Messenger now uses Apple emoji on iOS, and the main Facebook set elsewhere. Facebook reactions are only partially compatible with standard emoji.
Other emoji font vendors
EmojiOne version 2.2, an open-source font available under a free content license, supports the full emoji set in color through Unicode Emoji 3.0, i.e. Unicode 9.0. Newer versions of EmojiOne, since renamed JoyPixels, support more recent Unicode Emoji versions, and use a stricter license that disallows the redistribution of vector images, while version 2.x is "no longer supported or distributed". EmojiTwo, an open-source fork of EmojiOne 2.2, aims to add all emoji from 2017 and later.
As part of the now-discontinued Firefox OS project, Mozilla developed an emoji font named FxEmojis. Mozilla also package a version of Twitter's Twemoji font converted to a COLR/CPAL layered format font, named "Twemoji Mozilla". Older versions of the latter Mozilla project instead packaged the EmojiOne font, as "EmojiOne Mozilla".
The font Symbola contains all emoji through version 10.0 as normal monochrome glyphs. Through version 10, Symbola was a public domain font; beginning with version 11 in 2018, Symbola has been copyrighted with a ban on commercial use and derivative works. Other typefaces including a significant number of emoji characters include Noto Emoji, Adobe Source Emoji, and Quivira.
In popular culture
- The 2009 film Moon featured a robot named GERTY who communicates using a neutral-toned synthesized voice together with a screen showing emoji representing the corresponding emotional content.
- In 2014, the Library of Congress acquired an emoji version of Herman Melville's Moby Dick created by Fred Benenson.
- A musical called Emojiland premiered at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Angeles in May 2016, after selected songs were presented at the same venue in 2015.
- In October 2016, the Museum of Modern Art acquired the original collection of emoji distributed by NTT Docomo in 1999.
- In November 2016, the first emoji-themed convention, Emojicon, was held in San Francisco.
- In March 2017, the first episode of the fifth season of Samurai Jack featured alien characters who communicate in emoji.
- In April 2017, the Doctor Who episode "Smile" featured nanobots called Vardy, which communicate through robotic avatars that use emoji (without any accompanying speech output) and are sometimes referred to by the time travelers as "Emojibots".
- On July 28, 2017, Sony Pictures Animation released The Emoji Movie, a 3D computer animated movie featuring the voices of Patrick Stewart, Christina Aguilera, Sofía Vergara, Anna Faris, T. J. Miller, and other notable actors and comedians.
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Hard on the heels of the emoticon comes the Japanese-born emoji, also a DIGITAL icon used to express emotion, but more sophisticated in terms of imagery than those that are created by pressing a colon followed by a parenthesis. Emoji is made up of the Japanese for picture (e) and character (moji), so its resemblance to emotion and emoticon is a particularly happy coincidence.
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- Perry, Spencer (December 22, 2015). "Emoji Movie, Animated Spider-Man and Peter Rabbit Get Release Dates". ComingSoon.net. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 23, 2015.
- Unicode Technical Report #51: Unicode emoji
- The Unicode FAQ – Emoji & Dingbats
- Emoji Symbols – the original proposals for encoding of Emoji symbols as Unicode characters
- Background data for Unicode proposal
- emojitracker – list of most popularly used emoji on the Twitter platform; updated in real-time