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Emoticon is the union of the words emotion and icon. In this way, the term emoticon is synonymous with a compound of emotion and symbolized representation. Emoticons are designed to express human feelings in the form of short symbols or in writing and are used in computer environments. In addition, ASCII-II characters, for example, a colon, hyphen, and parentheses are used to represent a smiley face; or semicolon, dash, and parentheses for a wink. This dynamic of character use and emotional expression is especially popular in emails, messengers, chat programs or social networks such as Facebook or Twitter.

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General information

Harvey Ball designed the first smileys in 1963. Originally, smiley icons were supposed to boost worker morale after an acquisition by another company. An insurance company wanted to encourage new workers who were easily demotivated by the acquisition. Harvey Ball was in charge of designing the icons. He drew the first smiley and his clients were immediately excited.

Shortly thereafter, he received many commissions and the smiley badges spread quickly. In ten years, he sold more than 50 million smiley badges. But Harvey Ball never applied for a patent for the first smile. Frenchman Franklin Loufrani did. Right now, there are thousands of licenses in numerous countries that use the smiley as a product feature or marketing element.

It was just a small step from idea to technical implementation. The first IBM computer in 1981 used two smileys in its character code on page 437, one smiley face on a white background and one on a black background. Later, these smileys were included in the Unicode character set. Scott E. Fahl suggested that smileys could be written sideways in the reading direction, for example, to underline a humorous statement.[1]

Many different emoticons have been entered to represent a myriad of different feelings, not just a laugh or an ironic statement. Many programs and apps provide emoticons directly as a graphical representation when certain character strings are entered. They have become necessary in the electronic communication sector. Emoji are a duration of emoticons. They are very small images that can represent situations within a chat or in an SMS.

Practical relevance

Recently, a study was published in Australia that showed that emoticons elicit real human reactions. Emoticons are a culturally specific reaction that can be evidenced as neural activity. The human brain processed the smileys as real faces and recognized the laughter of the character's strings as such. The hyphen and parentheses symbols would be perceived as a whole and processed in the back of the brain.

The same region of the brain is responsible for the interpretation of facial features and expressions. The cultural practice of electronic communication with emoticons alters our way of interpreting these symbols. However, only 20 subjects were examined and all were under 32 years of age; a relatively small basis for talking about cultural practice and an understanding of emoticons.

Importance for SEO

The extent to which search engines can recognize the strings used in emoticons is unknown. Essentially, they are mere strings of characters for a search engine crawler, which do not differ from words and punctuation symbols. Crawlers cannot translate these strings in a semantic context. Only the human user gives a smiley face. This is associated with the user experience, because users connect emoticons with human emotions.

The discreet use of emoticons can be considered an element of trust and can increase the Time spent on a page, since users can identify with the site. However, this also depends on what the purpose of the website is. Emoticons can be a good fit on blogs, but in online stores they can seem quite frivolous. Web operators have to make their own decision on this and weigh the pros and cons.

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