Emoji Is Finally A Universal Language

An open source project will make emoji work everywhere and in any configuration.

Emoji Is Finally A Universal Language
[Original photo: Flickr user micadew, Emoji provided free by Emoji One]

The problem is simple: Emoji don’t work the same way everywhere. Trying to send the images between mobile and web services doesn’t mix well and usually leaves a (literal) gap in the experience.


I encountered this problem trying to write about the rise in emoji-only social networks. Even though the emoji showed up on my Mac just fine, the picture sentences didn’t play well in the final post–which is why it’s just a picture of emojis. Even if the emoji had worked fine on this end, it would have been a complete crapshoot as to whether those characters showed up for everyone else in their browsers.

EmojiOne is a free, open source, set of emoji which could possibly end the madness of guessing whether your pictogram stays intact as it travels over the web and is viewed by countless browser and device configurations.

“The biggest technical challenge throughout this project was sourcing the correct information needed to actually map out all of the current emoji Unicode characters,” says EmojiOne senior programmer Kevin Paterson. “The Unicode charset is supposed to be a ‘standard,’ but it has been modified to make room for special symbols, such as flags, which combine two Unicode glyphs to create one image.”

To get around the discrepancies, the team did a lot of testing with different devices and customized their scripts to account for the quirks. “If we simply followed the Unicode standard, many devices wouldn’t be able to have their Unicode emoji converted,” Paterson explains.

Even if emoji show up on different sites or services, the differences in appearance are a problem. Each app, company, or device has a slightly different take on how a wink or smiley face looks–that can get a little confusing. And everyone is creating their own because there hasn’t been a good, freely available, option until now.

The EmojiOne icons are available as 842 PNG images with a 64 x 64 resolution, or SVG vector format. The project is available for commercial or non-commercial use as part of the Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 4.0).

About the author

Tyler Hayes is a Southern California native, early technology adopter, and music enthusiast.