One small step for emojis, one giant leap for humankind? Maybe, if you're someone who wants your emojis to reflect the racial diversity of the world. Unicode, the folks who create emojis -- those little digital images or icons in the form of people, things and smiley faces that smartphone users sprinkle into their texts messages -- has proposed adding a "skin tone modifier" that can be added to any emoji via its 8.0 update slated for a 2015 release, reports MacRumors.
At the moment, the figures of people in emoji land -- princesses, couples holding hands -- are almost all Caucasian."There are at least 30 emojis that depict white people," wrote BetaBeat in March, "but there's nary a black person to be found. There's one apparently Asian man, plus a darker-skinned guy in a turban."
“People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” announced the Unicode Consortium.“The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.”
In March 2014, MTV asked Apple about the whitewashing of the emoji-sphere. Katie Cotton, who at the time was VP of Worldwide Corporate Communications, said, "We agree with you. Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard."
At the moment, according to Emojipedia, the Unicode 7.0 emoji characters released earlier this year are still not supported by any major platforms, so it's not clear how long it will take for Unicode 8.0 updates in iOS, OS X, Android or Windows. They're now only "a proposed draft" at this stage, and are "made available for public review and comment."
And comment people did. In the MacRumors comments forum, the following seemed to be representative of the responses to the announcement:
"This is one of the dumbest things I've ever read," wrote one person. "Did MacRumors.com get hacked or is this seriously a thing?!" Another commenter, referring to the proposed ability to add a skin tone to smiley faces, wrote, "Why not just stick to generic ones? Aren’t smileys meant to convey a certain emotion? When does the skin tone matter? I think this may have the opposite effect, namely abuse instead of actual use. I also think that it takes away a bit of the playful innocence of emojis and turns them into political statements."