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The History of the Emoji

We use emojis every day to convey what we are doing, feeling, thinking, and in some cases to hold a full conversation… but do you know the history of the emoji? Let’s take a look back at where they first came to be and learn some key dates that contributed to them becoming part of our everyday lives. 

The Birth of the Emoticon

August 6th, 1862: The New York Times printed a transcript of President Abraham Lincoln’s speech which included the :). This was likely a misprint, but nonetheless is the first time an emoticon appeared in print. 

March 30, 1881: First intentional use of emoticons! An American satirical magazine, PUCK, included a piece on “Typographical Art” which included joy, melancholy, indifference, and astonishment.

May 1, 1997: Who remembers AIM? AOL Instant Messenger introduced Buddy Icons, which were simple icons that could convey a feeling, imply an action, or communicate a status. 

November 1, 1997: J-Phone releases the SkyWalker DP-211SW mobile phone that included the world’s first known emoji set of 90 emoji characters, including the ever-popular poop emoji. 

February 1999: Shigetaka Kurita created 176 emojis for a Japanese integrated mobile internet service that only allowed for 250 characters. Kurita came up with these emojis to communicate in an “expressive but short” way. While this set isn’t the first, it is the set that got widespread popularity and led to the phenomenon of the emoji. 

June 1, 2003: Microsoft released MSN Messenger 6 along with 30 emoticons which included animations. These were precursors to the emojis we know today, and users were able turn any image into an emoticon and customize keyboard shortcuts. 

Apple Takes Charge

November 21, 2008: Apple introduces their own emojis, only for SoftBank users in Japan. Other countries could access them through a separate app available in the app store. 

October 12, 2010: Unicode 6 is released and emoji are officially accepted to the Unicode Standard. 

October 12, 2011: Apple gives iOS users easy access to emojis by adding an emoji keyboard to iOS 5, allowing users to longer need a separate app. 

2012: iOS 6 is released with same-sex couples now represented in emoji. 

February 19, 2013: Amazon Mechanical Turk workers translated Moby Dick using emoji. Emoji Dick was published in 2013 and was 735 pages. 

June 17, 2015: New characters and emoji are released with Unicode 8.0 which also included the introduction of skin-tone modifiers, 5 different skin tones are now available. 

Emoji’s Replace Words

November 17, 2015: The Word of the Year was actually “the face with tears of joy” emoji.

February 24, 2016: Facebook officially rolls our “reactions” to posts, allowing for 5 different emotions: like, love, haha, wow, sad, and angry. 

July 2016: Twitter launches emoji keyword targeting, allowing brands the ability to target people based on emojis they include in tweets. 

November 3, 2017: iOS 11 includes the release of Animoji, a face-tracking emoji that allows users to create custom animated messages. 

2020: Facebook adds they care reaction during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There you have it, emojis have not only changed the way we communicate but also had an impact on our culture. With every new iOS, new emojis are launched and integrated into our lives. What’s your favorite emoji?

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