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In 2015, 😂 became Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word” of the Year.Emoji aren’t just for people who say things like “lmao smh tbh fam.” Emoji are for everyone.And as mobile computing continued to explode throughout the mid-2000s, companies outside Japan, like Apple, saw an opportunity to incorporate emoji on other platforms.In 2007, a software internationalization team at Google decided to lead the charge, petitioning to get emoji recognized by the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit group that works sort of like the United Nations to maintain text standards across computers.Today there are thousands of emoji depicting people in all their diversity, and thousands more to represent the things we interact with in our world: money 💰, prayer beads 📿, Apple Watches⌚.In the future, as the world becomes increasingly digital and increasingly globalized, emoji will become important tools for translation and communication—a lingua franca for the digital age. For the most part, these came of age as the :-) and :-( and 8-D of chatroom conversations in the 1990s.These primitive gestures represented an important part of early netspeak: You could convey sarcasm by tacking on ;-) at the end of your message, or share your ambivalence with the ¯_(ツ)_/¯ face.The first emoji were created in 1999 by Japanese artist Shigetaka Kurita.
Kurita wanted to design an attractive interface to convey information in a simple, succinct way: for example, an icon to show the weather forecast rather than spelling out “cloudy.” So Kurita sketched a set of 12- by 12-pixel images that could be selected from a keyboard-like grid within the i-mode interface, then sent on mobiles and pages as their own individual characters.Unicode ultimately decided to index emoji “because of their use as characters for text-messaging in a number of Japanese manufacturers’ corporate standards.” In other words: Emoji had become too popular to ignore.Unicode’s blessing wasn’t just a way to maintain standards for the evolving lexicon of emoji—it was the beginning of legitimizing emoji as a form of communication.This allowed people to access emoji directly from a keyboard on their phones—the same way you’d switch to a Korean or Japanese keyboard to access those language-specific characters—and popularized emoji with an entirely new audience.suggested the move could give emoji a shot at “mainstream success,” noting that young people were already adjusting their texting habits to include the small icons: “I love you” became ❤️. As emoji became more popular, they also became more plentiful. ) Proposals are examined by the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee, which meets twice a week to discuss and decide on all emoji-related matters.But those characters weren’t purely informational: For the first time, emoji offered a way to add emotional subtext to a message.“I understand” might sound cold or passive on its own, but add ❤️ and the message offered a sense of warmth and sympathy. Emoji quickly became popular in Japan, as rival mobile companies copied DOCOMO’s idea. Emoji have been popular since they first appeared on Japanese mobile phones in the late ’90s, and in the past few years they have become a hallmark of the way people communicate. The tiny, emotive characters—from 😜 to 🎉 to 💩—represent the first language born of the digital world, designed to add emotional nuance to otherwise flat text.New emoji proposals suggest characters to convey information across language and culture, like a mosquito to represent illnesses like malaria and Zika.available outside of Japan since the mid-2000s through separate apps, which let users copy and paste the icons into text messages and emails.In 2011, Apple added an official emoji keyboard to i OS; Android followed suit two years later.