Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Emoji defragmentation

New and old Samsung pistol emojis, courtesy Emojipedia.

Back in 2015 I first started talking about emoji fragmentation, the concept that since there’s no single canonical source for emoji images, it’s possible for the same character to be interpreted entirely differently across platforms.1

In any event, let’s also consider that perhaps there is an opposing force—an understanding among the many platform owners who determine what emoji symbols their users see—that it’s not in anyone’s best interest to have symbols that are dramatically different than what people on other platforms or seeing.

As detailed by Burge at Emojipedia, Samsung this week upgraded its Pistol emoji to match Apple—namely, Apple’s semi-controversial decision to turn the depiction of a handgun into a green plastic water pistol.

This isn’t the first example. In 2016, Apple redesigned Beaming Face With Smiling Eyes to have a smile rather than a grimace on its mouth. The poo emoji has evolved similarly, with Apple’s smiling anthropomorphized soft-serve pile driving the alignment.

Or consider Woman Dancing, once a fragmented space offering a lady high-stepping in a red dress (Apple), Disco Stu and/or a seductive blob-man (Google), a funky fresh bathroom symbol (Microsoft), or a kid pretending to dance (Samsung). Over the past five years all the other players have followed Apple’s lead, so that all four platforms now feature a lady in a red dress, showing some leg, with one arm up and one arm down.

This is good news. While each platform owner has to commission its own emoji art and wants each image to be stylistically consistent, it’s better for users if there aren’t wide disparities in the content of the image being depicted by any given emoji. So perhaps, in the end, emoji fragmentation can simply be solved by time, as different emoji sets converge together.

  1. Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia thinks I may have coined the term, which is possible, but if so it’s only because I had been reading so much of his great coverage of the evolution of emoji as a form of communication. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

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