six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Linked by Jason Snell

More emoji fragmentation

People love emoji. But a major problem with using emoji is one of fragmentation—the image you send may not be the image your recipient sees, because different operating systems and platforms use their own images to represent emoji characters. There is no single, definitive image for any emoji symbol. Everyone—Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google—builds their own.

New emoji symbols are exciting. I firmly believe that Apple (and probably Google and Microsoft) use new emoji as a bit of a carrot to get users to upgrade their devices to the newest operating-system version. I have seen this firsthand with my daughter, who updates frequently just because she’s frustrated that she can’t see her friends’ emoji messages.

As Emojipedia’s Jeremy Burge explains in this blog post, while Google has done a good job of being ahead of the curve on emoji, the symbols are still a part of the core Android operating system, which is updated late (if ever) on many Android phones. Google has done a good job of pulling huge amounts of core Android functionality into update-ready chunks, making Android fragmentation less painful than it has been in the past, but not emoji symbols.

The result is that 96 out of 100 Android users can’t see the latest emoji symbols, which has led to more fragmentation as apps try to fix the issue themselves:

Snapchat, Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram and Slack all use emoji-replacement images on Android; in a trend started by Twitter with Twemoji which was released when the most popular browser on Windows (Chrome) didn’t include emoji support. WhatsApp and Telegram even use Apple’s own emoji images on Android, and makes a custom keyboard to display them.

It remains to be seen if phone-makers will update Android more often, if Google will find a way for emoji symbols to be updated separately from Android’s core operating system, or if it will fall to app developers to override Android’s symbols with their own.

[Can’t believe I missed this post; thanks to Dave Mark for linking to it.]