Emojis to Get Facelift


When it comes to Emoji’s skin tone, the icons are in line for a facelift, of sorts. This would make them more reflective of a globally diverse society. When it comes to texting, most people take part, but teenagers take the lead, sending 60 to 100 texts a day, according to Readwrite. Often a text message does not simply contain text. Many times, those who send texts upload an emoji, a small graphic icon, to boost the emotion, in otherwise wordy messages.

While texting, if anyone should ever grow tired of the common heart shape, or universal, yellow smiley face, there are quite a few emoji options available. To add flavor to a text, mobile phones and tablets are outfitted with a decent-sized inventory of emojis, to convey most common expressions.

One touch on a device’s emojis feature, and phone users can access a diverse group of categories, including symbols, objects and, of course, people. Although emoji categories are diverse, skin color choices in the people category lack diversity. This however, is seen to be unrepresentative of the very people who use emojis, worldwide.

Current discussions about the prospect of adding new emoji skin colors come from a cultural perspective. To make additional skin colors for emojis a reality, however, is tantamount getting a technological facelift. The fact is, new emoji designs crop up often. The issue with making changes to the skin color however, is a not a graphical design issue, but a software issue.

According to ABC News, flesh tone emojis were originally made to be a generic icon. The icons are developed by The Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization responsible for maintaining the software standards. Recently, according to the National Post, The Unicode Consortium placed in circulation a working draft that explains the methods necessary to update character skin tones.

Reportedly, in order for the emojis to operate soundly, that relies on Unicode, “the foundation for text”, as defined in the Consortium’s draft. The Unicode ensures the characters display appropriately across all operating systems. The Consortium indicates that the next scheduled update could include as many as five additional characters in ranging skin tones. Updates, however, depend on a development cycle, that takes a considerable amount of time.

In the interim, pressure has mounted for the software developer to bring a quick resolution. Apple, Inc., an obvious software and device manufacturer, has been fielding inquiries about the issue. Given the facts about the Unicode software development methods set forth in the Consortium’s draft, it is not possible that any one manufacturer, such as Apple, can unilaterally resolve the issue.

Apple, however, is a Consortium member. According to the National Post, Apple has confirmed that they are working alongside the Consortium concerning emoji updating.

While there appears to be a time delay in updating emoji characters, the issue continues to be time sensitive. There are people who believe the time has come for emojis to get a facelift and become ethnically diverse. What they are facing, however, is the fact that there is a long development process to go through, in order to make it happen.

By Karen J. Dabney

Photo by Joe Boene – Flickr


ABC News

National Post

Unicode Technical Report #51

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