By Heather Brown


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Within the next few months, new emojis will pop up on your phone — a waffle, hearing aids and swimsuits, just to name a few.

Emoji was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2015. In fact, check out Roger Federer’s entire day summarized in this amazing 2015 tweet.

But who decides which new emojis we get every year? Good Question, and it’s not the phone companies coming up with them. WCCO’s Heather Brown sought out who’s behind those funny little faces.

Greg Welch is with the Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit group in California that comes up with the standards for all devices. He said that in some ways, the general public comes up with the new icons. All the emojis, and their coding, go through them.

“It’s not a legal requirement, it’s voluntary,” Welch said. “If someone sends a smiley face on one phone, you want it to come out as a smiley face on another phone, even if it’s from a different manufacturer.”

Welch said that letting Samsung or Motorola or Apple, for instance, to go off on their own and create their own emoji language would be “an undesirable outcome.”

“Emojis are chosen by a fairly long and elaborate process that starts with members of the public making proposals,” Welch said.

The voting members are from tech companies and device manufacturers, but also the government of India and University of California-Berkeley. It can take years to first get voted on by the couple dozen members, and then the device companies need time to implement the technology. Chances are better if the suggested emoji is in demand.

Corporate logos and specific real-life people are not accepted by the Unicode Consortium, however they have made recent moves toward being more inclusive, not only with many different skin tones now being offered but a new set of emojis that reflect gender non-conforming identities, as well as those that are sensitive to disabilities.

There are currently more than 1,700 emojis, from the new drop of blood to mermaids to bagels.

The emoji subcommittee has a link for all of the emojis the public has requested. It is periodically updated as new proposals are received. To see the list of emojis, click here.

Heather Brown

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