Home Unicode Wants To Fix Emoji’s Ethnicity Problem

Unicode Wants To Fix Emoji’s Ethnicity Problem

Emoji may soon become as racially diverse as the people who use them.

In the latest Unicode Consortium report covering the emoji standard, a new section titled “Diversity” drafted a proposal to implement skin tone options users can select while they text.

“People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone,” the report reads.

See also: Emoji and the iPhone-Fueled Rise of Talking in Tiny Pictures

Emoji were invented in Japan 1999 and continue to go by their original name, which means “picture letter” in Japanese. The Unicode Consortium notes that emoji were originally intended to have a “a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette,” but Japanese carriers soon set a light skinned precedent, intending the emoji to look like the Japanese people who first used them.

Since emoji use has long since spread from Japan to the rest of the world, emoji diversity is overdue. The Unicode Consortium wants to establish six skin tones for emoji based on the Fitzpatrick scale, a global skin tone classification dermatologists use in their studies.

The proposal is just a draft right now, but Unicode Consortium president and co-founder Mark Davis told the Washington Post that he’s optimistic it will be approved.

“It isn’t completely set in stone;​ we are still collecting feedback on the proposal. But I think it is very likely,” he said.

Illustration via the Unicode Consortium

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