World Emoji Day 2018

The History Of The Emoji

The History Of The Emoji

With World Emoji Day just around the corner (17 July), we decided to take a look at The History Of The Emoji, and why it’s become more than just a millennial messaging fad.

The First Emoji

It all began with the emoticon, which can actually be traced back as far as the 17th century. However, for the most part, emojis first emerged in chatrooms in the 1990s. They were considered an important part of early netspeak, and users could share or convey their feelings by adding an emoticon to the end of a message.

In terms of emoji, the first ever set was created in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese artist. Kurita was tasked with creating emoji for i-mode, a mobile internet platform offered by DOCOMO. He wanted to design an interactive interface to convey information in an easy way, so he sketched out 176 images that could be chosen from a grid within the i-mode interface. He included characters to show the weather, all the phases of the moon, traffic, and technology.

Popular in Japan

Kurita’s emoji quickly became popular in Japan, and rival companies copied DOCOMO’s idea. Once mobile computing began to explode during the mid-2000s, companies like Apple also realised the opportunity to incorporate emoji on other platforms. In 2007, Google led the charge to get emoji recognised by the Unicode Consortium – they were joined by Apple in 2009, when Peter Edberg and Yasuo Kida submitted an official application to add 625 new emoji characters to Unicode’s standard.

Unicode eventually accepted the proposal in 2010, once they realised emoji had become too popular to ignore.

From 2011 to the current day

Apple officially added the emoji keyboard to IOS in 2011, followed by Android two years later. This move enabled smartphone users to access emoji on their keyboards, propelling it to a whole new audience.

However, emoji has encountered its fair share of politicisation. In 2014, questions arose as to why certain food, flags, families, and professions were unavailable. This politicisation wasn’t just a matter of having the correct icon to describe where you went on holiday – it was about acknowledging different cultures in a digital format.

Undoubtedly, emoji has emerged as a vital language of the digital age, with over 2,666 emoji now available on the Unicode Standard as of July 2017. According to Apple, the most popular emoji include the crying with laughter face, the ‘in love’ face, the rolling eyes face, the red heart, and the skull.