People worldwide ❤️ to 😁—at least according to studies on emoji usage. The crying-laughing face is the world’s most popular emoji. Every day, people send billions of emojis via emails, text messages, and social media posts. But it’s not just laughing faces. More than 3,000 of the cartoon-like symbols exist, representing everything from human expressions to animals to everyday objects.
The word emoji means “picture characters” in Japanese. The symbols date back to the 1980s, when people started using sideways smiley faces like this : - ) in chat rooms to show they were joking. In 1999, Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese artist working at a mobile phone company, wanted to take the symbols further. He designed a set of characters that included objects (like a 📺) and emotions (such as a 💔). His 176 original icons represented the beginning of emojis—and the creation of a whole new digital language.
Have you ever wondered where new emojis come from? A nonprofit organization called the Unicode Consortium, which is made up of people from big tech companies, manages them. Every year, Consortium members meet to review proposals for new emojis. They decide which will get added to your smartphone, tablet, and computer keyboards. The decision is based on factors such as if the emojis are easily recognizable and useful for communication. Earlier this year, 117 new emojis were approved, including , , and . Which is your favorite?