It has been a sore spot for months now, but people of color will finally be able to represent themselves via an emoji. Unicode has been circulating a proposal to change the standard that guides the characters.
Under the new proposal, the default person emoji will be of a non-standard color. Think the generic yellow emoji and you get the idea. From there, five options will be available for people to modify skin color based on their preferences. And let the countdown begin of the first Internet celebrity doing something racist with this. Vegas should have prop bets on who will be the first idiot.
Before you grab your phone to fill up your latest Instagram post with the new emojis, you’re going to have to wait a bit. It’s not something Unicode can just click a button and instant diversity. The proposal will be under review for the next few months before making its way into the standard come next June.
Mark Davis, the head of the Unicode Consortium, has said in the proposal that there is a limit on how far the standard can go. “Of course, there are many other types of diversity in human appearance besides different skin tones: different hairstyles and color, use of eyeglasses, various kinds of facial hair, different body shapes, different headwear, and so on. It is beyond the scope of Unicode to provide an encoding-based mechanism for representing every aspect of human appearance diversity that emoji users might want to indicate.”
What Davis wants front-end developers to do is change the design to default to an unrealistic color, such as the happy face yellow or something of the sort. In effect, it papers over the accident of leaving out the characters. The standard initially just adopted characters popularized in Japan. Then it was just an accident that it was left off the standard.
That’s why you are getting emoji modifiers over standard emojis. Now, Unicode has to wait for heavyweights such as Apple and Google to sign on to the new standard. The two power the vast majority of smartphones used around the world. All the user has to do is sit back and wait for June 2015.