Story at a glance

  • The Unicode Consortium has finalized a collection of new emoji sequences.
  • The emojis will be widely available by 2021.
  • Several of the new emojis incorporate more diversity in race, gender and sexuality.

2020 has been a year. Between a global pandemic, police violence and a presidential election, we’ve run out of words and emojis to describe what we're going through. So Unicode made us some new ones. 


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The Unicode Consortium, which created the encoding standard for the characters we now call "emojis," has unveiled 217 new emoji sequences that can now be sent and read across platforms and softwares (so you can text them to that one friend who has an Android phone). A heart on fire, a face exhaling, a face in the clouds and a face with spiral eyes are all part of the new Emoji 13.1, which will be widely available by 2021, although you might see them on your phone earlier.

The update includes a more diverse set of multi-person emoji groupings, including couples with a heart between them or kissing. Emojis, which were initially yellow, are now available in different skin tones as companies became more concerned about diversity and inclusion. Still, some feel unrepresented by the characters on their phone. 


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The new groupings show LGBTQ+ and interracial relationships, which were previously not available in different skin tones. Some of the characters also allow for a variety of gender identities and expressions, including a woman with facial hair. 

Technical point: the Unicode Consortium actually creates unique character encodings processing, storage and interchange of text data in any language in all modern software and information technology protocols. This includes various languages as well as technical symbols and even punctuation. 

The whole operation is run by volunteers and raises money through grants and sponsorships, so if you want to support them — or just really identify with a particular emoji — you can adopt one and fund work on digitally disadvantaged languages.

So the next time someone asks you how you’re doing and you just don’t have the words, there’s now an emoji for that. 


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Published on Sep 23, 2020