Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Controls The Emoji Symbols?

Emoji Tracker
Emoji symbols, which began with Japanese mobile phones and spread to smartphones in recent years, have become a lingua franca for certain users of texting and social media. Emojis allow people to punctuate their texts with hundreds of colorful images ranging from a skyscraper to a martini glass to a pig's snout.

However, as their popularity increases, people are demanding more Emojis to cover symbols for hotdogs, cupcakes, tacos, bacon and unicorns. Some may try to ignore those pictogram-like characters, but for those who have adopted it as a second language, nothing is impossible.

Some Emoji supporters have resorted to extreme dedication to get the attention of symbol developers. One Facebook page even dedicated to the proposition: "The Universe Demands a Taco Emoji." And the online world responds.

"Emoji Dick," an approximately 800-page translation of "Moby-Dick" into emoji symbols, was added to the U.S. Library of Congress last year. The colorful book features a blue whale standing in for the great white whale and an assortment of faces, animals and symbols standing in for Captain Ahab at various points.

The Emoji Art and Design Show in New York City in December 2013 included about 30 original pieces of art dedicated to the "emoji zeitgeist." Among the highlights: "," a website that catalogs the most popular emojis being used on Twitter, an installation called "The Garden of Emoji Delights," and "Emoji Wallpaper," a vinyl wall covering.

But who decides what Emoji to add and develop?

The answer: Emojis are largely controlled by a non-profit group called the Unicode Consortium, which was formed by computer programmers in the 1980s to standardize coding so the various global languages can zip around the Internet without getting lost in translation.

Unicode decided to take on Emojis after hiccups emerged in understanding Japanese emails loaded up with the symbols, says Mark Davis, co-founder of the consortium and a top software architect for Google Inc.

Mr. Davis says the consortium generally encodes symbols already in existence. This means that most Emojis available today are from the original ones created in Japan.

"People say, 'You really should encode X because it'd be good,' " he said from his home in Zurich. "But we don't try to make original, new symbols … We look at what occurred in historical or modern times to decide whether or not something should be added to the standard." New symbols are added periodically.

"We're talking about the Internet here," Mr. Davis said. "The number of possible images is infinite."

Once Unicode greenlights an emoji, individual tech companies decide whether to include it in their operating systems, he says.

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