A picture speaks a thousand words.
And this was immensely felt during those days when picture messaging was becoming more of a frenzied fever. Remember those late 1990s and early 2000s when our phones carried something called ‘picture messages’ pre-installed on them? And, of course, this had not gone unnoticed. Mobile companies had quickly grasped in this growing rage, eventually coming up with something more interesting for the users – the Emoji.
Is Emoji only about pictures?
Technically, Emoji was born in Japan, just like its unique name. The Japanese term roughly translated means ‘picture (e) writing (mo) character (ji).’ This, gives enough arguments in favor of Emoji being only and wholeheartedly nothing but pictures. The contradiction is that, Emoji is much more than that. The thing is actually about computer-recognized codings more than just images.
How is it any different from Emoticons?
Hugely. While Emoji is all about codes that can be read by computers and run for pre-defined codes, Emoticons are more user-defined. Emoji involves numbers while Emoticons have a text built. Most important, Emoji pictures are very limited while Emoticons can range depending on any text combinations the user puts in.
Who made the first emoji?
That was in 1999 when a Japanese engineer, Shigetaka Kurita, working for NTT Docomo had come up with the first ever Emoji for the company’s i-mode mobile Internet platform. It’s amazing how over a span of such less times, the initial number of 172 such picture characters have now gone up to almost a 2000 now.
But, the innovation got its much deserved kick-start only after Apple’s iPhone had come into being in Japan with Steve Jobs pressurizing the Unicode Consortium to let Emojis run in iOS too. And after that, there was no looking back. The Emoji craze was suddenly everywhere!
How Japanese are the Emojis?
The picture characters have been heavily influenced by Japanese traditions and culture, like an apologizing businessman, or a white flower for excellent homework, or those representing noodles, dango, onigiri, sushi and even Japanese curries. And this trend is still in.
How will the 2015 Unicode update bring about some refreshing change?
Emojis have been going on the way they are, like, forever. Nothing except the inclusion of some new images have been done so far. But, as much as its popularity was rising, there was a natural complaint slowly surfacing too. People, especially, those with a darker skin tone, were demanding the inclusion of new picture characters with skin shades that could go right with the range of smartphone users that exist all over the globe. An interesting tweet had once popped up once on this topic.
“Apparently Emojis need to be more diverse to represent the global community. They’re yellow. They represent NOBODY and that’s the point?!?!”
Apple, of course, had taken care of this by introducing two Emojis of color – an Asian man wearing a Gua Pi Mao hat, which is traditional in China, and another Asian man wearing a white turban. But, was it enough to suffice the needs of the users. I guess not.
So, there was this huge version 8.0 update to Unicode which claims to include five ‘symbol modifiers’ that will speak for the range of skin tones needed. The tones, of course, haven’t been chosen arbitrarily but on the basis of the six colors of the Fitzpatrick scale, which is a well-known gold standard used by dermatologists.
This idea of making Emoji a racially diverse thing seems like a good way to go, given the varied skin tones smartphone users carry. This thing will allow them to share pictures that resemble them in someway. Well, at least in terms of their skin tone, yes.