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A Emoji is a pictogram, which is mainly used in chat or SMS communication. Emoji are not like emoticons that are limited to expressing emotions, but also include concepts from other subjects, such as "plants" or "animals" in image form.

History and background

Emoji originated in Japan, where these symbols were developed in the late 1990s for a WAP portal-like service called i-mode. The invention of Emojis is now mainly attributed to Shigetaka Kurita, one of the co-developers of the i-mode project. Users were able to supplement text messages with pictorial symbols using Emojis. This gave users additional levels of meaning when limited to 160 characters and could sometimes represent entire situations just by using Emojis.

The original Emoji was limited to a single color and a maximum size of 12 x 12 pixels due to display technology at the time. Due to this limitation, these mobile phone pictograms were not subject to copyright. Almost all Japanese cell phone providers took advantage of the possibility to develop their own Emojis for their customers.

The "Emoji" trend quickly spread in Japan. However, it took a few more years for Emojis to have the same success in Europe. On the one hand, the technology of mobile devices in this country was not oriented to the use of Emojis and, on the other, this Japanese trend was not well known. An important step towards the spread of Emojis worldwide was the inclusion of Emojis in Unicode in 2010.


The emoji weren't uniformly coded from the start. Shift_JIS was originally used. Through the development of icons by different cell phone providers, different variations have spread and multiplied at the same time. At first there were only 176 different images and in 2010 there were already 700.

Since 2010, Emojis can be uniformly represented by Unicode worldwide. The major smartphone manufacturers are very supportive of the use of Emojis today. Since the release of iOS 6, Apple supports Emojis by default. Even the Windows Phone cell phone operating system is fluent in the "Emoji language."



Emoji were originally sent in cell phone to cell phone text messages in Japan. Currently it is feasible to use Emoji in chat programs like Skype, or in social networks like Facebook or apps like WhatsApp.

Emoji versus Emoticons

Emoji are usually equated with emoticons (smileys). As pictograms, Emojis usually fulfill a similar function to that of emoticons in SMS or chats, but they cover a much more extensive subject area. While emoticons pictorially convey emotions using stylized facial expressions, emoji can represent a number of facts with pictures comparable to the cave paintings of our ancestors. Emojis that are limited to representing only certain facial expressions are also called Kaomoji.


Emoji have been the subject of criticism for some time, because only faces and people with white skin were depicted. In short, companies like Apple worked to obtain Multicultural emojis. Stars like Miley Cyrus even started an online petition about this on Twitter.

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