As a sign in a communication, emojis are widely used globally in messaging and chatting on social media.
Today, the world is celebratin the emojis, a day dubbed World Emoji Day.
“Emoji is making us better communicators in the digital age,” said linguist Vyv Evans (author of The Emoji Code) as quoted by usaoday.com.
“Saying that emoji is a backward step would be like saying when you speak to someone you’re not allowed to make any facial expression.”
Humans regularly use their 43 facial muscles to produce more than 10,000 unique facial expressions, Evans said.
“One of the problems with digital communication, when it relies purely on text, is that this sucks out the empathy, the emotional expression, out of the communication. So it can lead to miscommunication,” Evans explained.
“This is where emoji comes into its own. It puts the body language back in so people can better read emotional intent.”
Different ways of celebration
New York’s Empire State Building will be lit up in yellow to mark the day.
It is one of several stunts planned for World Emoji Day, which celebrates the colourful symbols used in instant messages, on 17 July.
London’s Royal Opera House will present 20 well-known operas and ballets in emoji form online.
There are 2,666 emojis currently on the official Unicode Standard list.
The Unicode consortium lays out the framework for emojis and decides what should be depicted, but companies such as Apple and Google are free to create their own designs.
The founder of World Emoji Day, Jeremy Burge, who is also on one of Unicode’s committees, said the consortium considered hundreds of applications for new emojis every year.
“You can’t buy your way in – and it makes companies mad,” he said.
“You need to fulfil criteria. There has to be demand for it. Brands or logos are not permitted.”
Where did they come from?
The idea of emoticons is not new. What is new is their relative universality and their growing ubiquity.
The first digital use of emoticons is attributed to computer science professor Scott Fahlman, who noticed jokes on his department’s bulletin board at Carnegie Mellon University were falling flat or being misunderstood.
So, on September 19, 1982, Fahlman suggested people use a smiley face emoticon to indicate a joke and a frown face to indicate something was not meant as a joke.
“This convention caught on quickly around Carnegie Mellon, and soon spread to other universities and research labs via the primitive computer networks of the day,” Fahlman later wrote. “Within months” he was seeing variations appear like the open-mouthed surprised emoticon and emoticons for people wearing glasses.
Emojis have been around since the 1990s and Apple first included them in its iPhone keyboard in 2011.
The first World Emoji Day took place in 2014. The date – 17 July – was chosen because it is the date which appears on the emoji for “calendar”.