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Emoji History, Invention and Timeline

swirl of emojis

Communication has evolved beyond traditional text-based conversations. We now have the power to express ourselves using a vast array of small pictorial icons that convey emotions, actions, and ideas instantly. Emojis have revolutionized our online communication, adding a colorful and expressive dimension to our messages and social media posts. From smiley faces and animals to food and objects, emojis offer a rich tapestry of visual language. In this article, we will take a look into the origins, evolution, and incredible possibilities of emojis.

Table of Contents

Who Invented Emojis

The word “emoji” comes from the Japanese words “e” (็ตต, picture) and “moji” (ๆ–‡ๅญ—, character). Emojis have come a long way from their humble beginnings, having first been introduced in the late 1990s by Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese artist.

Shigetaka Kurita designed a set of 176 simple icons for a mobile phone company. These rudimentary emojis consisted of smiley faces like ๐Ÿ™‚ and ๐Ÿ˜‰, weather symbols โ˜€๏ธ๐ŸŒง๏ธ, and basic objects like ๐ŸŽˆ and ๐Ÿš—. However, it wasn’t until Apple integrated emojis into their iPhone keyboard in 2011 that they gained widespread popularity. Since then, emojis have become a global phenomenon, adopted by various digital platforms and operating systems.

Timeline of Emoji Development

Since the 1990s, emojis have evolved, and many new ones have been added. Here’s a timeline highlighting key moments in the history and development of emojis:

1997: Shigetaka Kurita, a Japanese artist, designs a set of 176 simple icons for a mobile phone company, laying the foundation for emojis.

2002: Emojis are added to the Japanese mobile phone standard, i-mode. This makes them available to a larger Japanese audience.

2007: The iPhone is released by Apple and includes a built-in emoji keyboard, giving emojis a global audience.

2008: Google releases Android, also including a built-in emoji keyboard, adding to the popularity of emojis.

2010: Unicode Consortium adds emojis to its Unicode Standard, standardizing their representation across platforms, including Windows, macOS, and Linux.

2011: With the release of iOS 5, Apple includes a new set of 400 emojis, the most significant expansion of the emoji library to date, making them easily accessible to millions of users worldwide.

2012: Emojis are added to Facebook for users to use in posts, comments, and messages.

2013: Twitter adds emojis to its platform so users can tweet with emojis.

2015: The Oxford Dictionaries names the “Face with Tears of Joy” ๐Ÿ˜‚ emoji as the Word of the Year, highlighting emojis’ cultural impact and significance.

2016: Unicode 9.0 is released, introducing a significant expansion of emojis, including new professions, diverse skin tones, and popular requests like the “Facepalm” ๐Ÿคฆ emoji.

2017: Apple introduces Animoji, which utilizes the front-facing camera on newer iPhones to create animated emojis that mirror facial expressions.

2018: Unicode 11.0 is released, introducing a range of new emojis, including superheroes๐Ÿฆธโ€โ™‚๏ธ ๐Ÿฆธโ€โ™€๏ธ, redheads ๐Ÿง‘โ€๐Ÿฆฐ, and animals like the llama ๐Ÿฆ™ and peacock ๐Ÿฆš.

2019: The “Face with Tears of Joy” ๐Ÿ˜‚ emoji becomes the most used emoji, according to Emojitracker, a real-time tracker of emoji usage on Twitter.

2020: Emoji 13.0 is released, featuring additions like the transgender flag ๐Ÿณ๏ธโ€โšง๏ธ, bubble tea ๐Ÿง‹, anatomical heart โค๏ธ, and a range of gender-inclusive options.

2021: Facebook and Instagram introduce Soundmojis, which are emojis accompanied by sound effects ๐Ÿ”Š๐ŸŽถ, expanding the expressive possibilities of emojis.

2022: Emoji 14.0 is released, bringing over 1500 new emojis such as melting face ๐Ÿ˜…๐Ÿ”ฅ, biting lip ๐Ÿ‘„, and the gender options for pregnancy-related emojis ๐Ÿคฐ.

Emojis continue to evolve and adapt, reflecting the needs and interests of users worldwide. From their early days as simple icons to their integration into our daily digital interactions, emojis have become a powerful and universally recognized form of communication.

The Power of Visual Expression

Emojis possess a unique ability to enhance communication by adding visual cues to our textual conversations. A single emoji can convey a wealth of emotions, such as happiness ๐Ÿ˜„, sadness ๐Ÿ˜ข, excitement ๐Ÿ˜ƒ, or surprise ๐Ÿ˜ฎ. These visual representations add clarity to our messages and enhance emotional resonance in our digital interactions. For example, the ๐Ÿ˜Š emoji represents a warm smile, instantly brightening up a message. On the other hand, the ๐Ÿ˜ญ emoji conveys a sense of sadness and empathy.

Emojis as Cultural Icons

Over time, emojis have evolved to reflect the diverse needs and interests of users worldwide. Today, we have an extensive range of emojis that represent emotions, objects, animals, food, activities, and even professions. Some emojis have become cultural icons in their own right. Take, for instance, the pizza ๐Ÿ• emoji, which has become synonymous with pizza cravings and indulgence. The party popper ๐ŸŽ‰ emoji signifies celebration and joy, often used to express excitement or mark special occasions. Meanwhile, the dog ๐Ÿถ and cat face ๐Ÿฑ emojis have become beloved symbols of pets and companionship.

Unlocking Creativity and Personalization

Emojis have become a canvas for personal expression and creativity. In addition to conventional emojis, there is a growing trend of aesthetic emojis that add an artistic touch to our messages. These include emojis like the dizzy symbol ๐Ÿ’ซ, sparkles โœจ, and cherry blossom ๐ŸŒธ, which evoke a sense of enchantment and beauty. Users can also combine emojis creatively to convey complex emotions or ideas. For example, combining the globe ๐ŸŒ and seedling ๐ŸŒฑ emojis could symbolize environmental consciousness or sustainability.

Heart emojis hold a special place in the emoji lexicon. They represent a range of emotions, from love and affection to admiration and support. The red heart โค๏ธ emoji is universally recognized as a symbol of love, while the sparkling heart ๐Ÿ’– and two pink heart emojis ๐Ÿ’• add an extra dose of tenderness. These heart emojis have become a way to express affection, friendship, or solidarity, transcending language and cultural barriers.

Emojis Beyond Texting

Emojis are not limited to messaging apps and social media platforms. They have expanded their presence into various facets of our digital lives. Emojis can be found in email communications, adding a touch of visual appeal to professional conversations. Some courtrooms have even encountered cases where emojis were used as evidence. Moreover, emojis have entered the realms of product design and user experience, enhancing engagement and delighting users with their presence.


Emojis have transformed how we communicate online, bringing a new level of expressiveness and creativity to our digital conversations. These tiny icons have a global appeal, transcending language barriers and cultural differences. Whether you’re expressing joy or love or simply adding a touch of humor, emojis have become an indispensable part of our daily communication. ๐ŸŒŸโœจ๐Ÿ˜Šโค๏ธ