5 things you should know about the weird and wonderful world of Emojis [interview & insight]

5 things you should know about the weird and wonderful world of Emojis [interview & insight]

We all use them in our everyday communication, but most of us don’t really understand where the phenomenon of emojis came from and what they are.  To uncover the weird and wonderful world of emojis, Hackers.Media ventured into Soho (London) for a coffee with Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge.

Emojipedia has become the de-facto guide to emojis, and a publishing phenomenon itself doing 18 million page views from 4 million people a month.  The core tenet of Emojipedia is simple, with the promise to be able to look up any emoji in the world and look at all the changes that have been made over time.  Cataloging emojis has become increasingly important as more-and-more emojis are introduced, and as emojis are changed and adapted with community feedback; a process that is now managed by the Unicode consortium committee in 6 monthly cycles.  The most recent batch of emojis being publicly announced in the last few weeks, and set to include some of the following:

new_emojis

To help you understand a little more about the world of emojis, here’s 5 of the most interesting things you should know about emojis taken from my chat with Jeremy . . .

When was the first emoji launched?

The first emoji was made in Japan around 1998 / 99.  They hit phones in 1999, and were mostly focused on things like the weather and transport, as they were initially designed to work on simple phones as a way to communicate basic / practical things - like ‘what’s the weather like?’ or ‘how are you getting home?’.  From a design perspective the first emojis were black and white pixel art.  Culturally Japan has a tradition of formal letter writing, hence how emojis - as short-cuts to communicating in a written format.

Here are what some of the original Japanese emojis looked like:

Original Japanese emoji

Technically-speaking, what is an emoji?

Technically emojis are fonts not images, meaning that emojis are cross-platform and readable / understood by all platforms / devices.  An emoji is stored on the phone as an image, but what is sent is actually a bit of code that says display X emoji,  meaning that you don’t know exactly what the emoji looks like - as this relies on the platform to display the emoji correctly.  Just as Macs come with Helvetica as its default font and Windows with Arial as its font, each platform has their own emoji font as well - meaning that the emoji that I see on my iPhone will look different from the same emoji that you see on your Android phone.  Hence why Emojipedia is such a useful resource!  

How many different versions of very emoji are there?

There are around 12 major platforms with their own emoji designs, the biggest being: Apple, Microsoft, Google and Samsung.  There are also open source emojis created by the likes of Twitter and Emoji One.  There are also older ones like the Japanese original ones that are no longer in use.

How often are new emojis introduced?

Emojis are updated every 6 months by a central committee made up of the main Unicode representatives (made up of select tech companies like Google, Apple and Samsung) and a few additional members like Jeremy from Emojipedia.

Currently there is a draft list of new emojis for 2017, which should be live on most phones by the end of the year (new emoji images listed above).

Who owns emojis?

All emojis are technically copyrighted, with all platforms owning the copyright meaning they can determine what’s the most appropriate use of that font.

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