Monday was World Emoji Day. Over the past decade, these little icons have become essential to online communication. But how much do you know about them?
To celebrate, here are 8 facts you should know about emoji around the world.
Love emoji? Thank the Japanese.
Emoji were invented in Japan in 1999 by Japanese designer Shigetaka Kurita.
Why Japan? As Wired notes, linguistic and cultural factors may have played a role:
“Spoken, written, lived Japanese is rich with context, honorifics, and layers of meaning. Perhaps more than anybody speaking English or a European language could imagine, Japan needed some way to indicate the tone of a text.”
At first, emoji were confined to Japanese phones. But when Apple released the iPhone in Japan, the company soon discovered they needed to add emoji support to compete in the Japanese market. And when iOS 5 came out, emoji were suddenly easily available to iPhone users worldwide.
New emoji are approved by the Unicode Consortium.
How hard is it to come up with new emoji? Harder than you might think. In order for new emoji to be usable across different devices and platforms, they have to be approved by the Unicode Consortium. The approval process can be difficult, and time-consuming, often taking a year or more.
69 new emoji were unveiled earlier this year, including a woman in a headscarf and 2 separate emoji of people in a sauna (one male, one female). The people in a sauna represent Finland, of course, though the Finns would have preferred them to appear without the towel. The “person with headscarf” emoji is the brainchild of a 15-year-old girl. Read more