The Biggest Problem With Emojis May Soon Be Solved

It looks like we're finally getting some much-needed emoji diversity.

The Unicode Consortium, the organization that oversees those little faces, symbols and eggplants on your phone, has a proposal to deal with the overwhelming whiteness of most of the human characters. 

The organization announced that Unicode 8.0 will add five "symbol modifier characters," which users can use to generate a range of skin tones on their human-like emoji. 

"While emoji characters were always intended to be generic, the color choices were invariably light-toned or yellow, leaving vast swaths of the human population unrepresented," Mashable notes.

Source: iEmoji.com

Right now, these are the only nonwhite faces you get. The new proposal, though, would fix all that by allowing users to add emojis that reflect the rest of the world.

How it works: The consortium announced a new set of codes that would allow emojis to be modified to one of five skin tones based on the widely used Fitzpatrick scale.

What's more, the neutral faces will be given a non-skin tone color (the announcement uses Simpsons-style bright yellow, though that could change) if you don't want to pick one. That was originally the goal, according to the consortium, but some phone carriers made the images white and it stuck.

"People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone," the consortium report says. "These characters have been designed so that even where diverse color images for human emoji are not available, readers can see what the intended meaning was."

What it means: One of the purposes of emoji is to transcend language barriers — a smiling face is a smiling face, no matter where you are. But when that smiling face can only look a certain way, it serves to exclude people.

While a previous update looked like it was going to address the diversity issue, that turned out to be a false alarm. It led to pushback from people who wanted more diverse faces in their texts.

The consortium's new report was reviewed by Apple and Google engineers, which is a good sign that those in tech are taking it seriously. If so, expect the change to come by next summer.

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Matt Connolly

Matt has written for Mother Jones, the Washington Examiner and Chicago Public Radio among many others. He's a resident of Washington, D.C., but much like Bruce Springsteen and pork roll he is a product of New Jersey.

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