Are the Snapchat emojis correct?

Emoji are a graphic shorthand for emotional states, jokes, and nuances of language, so it is especially problematic if your friend sees a different emoji than the one you sent. That's why your messages may not arrive the way you intended.

How emoji works: a code for every smile

We, the end users, only see the graphic fruits of the emoji system. Among all the millions of smiley faces, hearts, and tiny piles of poop people broadcasting every day, there is one detailed and standardized one! code system that ensures that everyone sees the same thing.

The backbone of emoji is made up of the very short text messages in: Unicode. Unicode is a computer industry standard that dates back to the 1990s and ensures that all writing systems and symbols in the world are displayed correctly on all electronic devices. The entire standard contains more than 128,000 characters in 135 modern and historical writing systems, including symbols.

When emojis were in their infancy in the 1990s, telecommunications providers in Japan hijacked some unused entries in the Unicode system to match facial expressions. The practice was not standardized at the time, but over the years as emoji grew in popularity and adopted for use outside of Japan, the Unicode Consortium got involved and standardized emoji by associating specific emoji with specific codes. Just like the capital letter A in Latin script is linked to the code U + 0014, the basic smiley emoji could forever be linked to the code U + 263A.

How Emoji Fails: Design Differences, Expanding Standards, and Old Phones

Since every single emoji has its own unique code, how exactly does it fall apart?

Designer interpretation: Not all smiles are created equal

First, it might be helpful to think about emojis and letters. Yes, the Unicode standard ensures that U + 0014 is the Latin capital letter A, but which one font the letter is displayed has a huge impact on how we interpret it. Some fonts are utilitarian, some fonts are styled after fantasy fonts, some fonts are silly, and the font a designer chooses to display changes how we see something as simple as a letter.

The same concept works with emoji. Unicode might say โ€œU + 263A is a simple smiley face!โ€ But what that particular basic smiley face looks like is up to the people who developed the platform you use to send and receive messages. The following examples show how designers in different companies interpreted "smiling face".

From left: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and LG

There are some differences between the faces - some have rosy cheeks, some smile so hard that their eyes pucker with joy - the general message is pretty clear. It would be difficult to interpret any of these symbols as anything other than a happy face.

But other symbols, even if they seem straight forward, are not as clear. Here you can see what U + 1F62C, the "Grimacing Face", looks like on different platforms.

From left: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and LG

Apple and Google's interpretation both have an eerie valley vibe, like two robots trying to mimic a human grimace. Microsoft and LG seem to have captured the true spirit of a grimace because their emojis look like they're actually forgiving something bad, like a child about to be hurt or terrible news. Samsung, on the other hand, understood how to interpret "grimace" as "smile with a sneering smile", as if one had drugged the opponent's drink while they were on the toilet. If you send this emoji from your LG phone with the feeling that you are saying "Oh dear, this is horrible!", A recipient on the Samsung phone will be sent with this creepy "I know where you live!" -Face treats.

Updates and Old Phones Introducing Hiccups

In addition to the headache of different styling, there is an additional key to your ideographic communication: a growing emoji library combined with old and rarely updated cell phones. If you've got a new phone and your recipient has an old phone, or vice versa, chances are the emoji won't match on multiple devices, even if the devices are from the same developer.

For example, in early versions of the Emoji Unicode set, the emoji for "dancer" was either a gender-neutral stick figure or a small cartoon man dancing. Later, the same emoji code was mixed up in a revision of the standard so that instead of a stick figure or man, there is a woman in a red salsa dress on devices using the newer versions. Here's how the one emoji can vary depending on the age of the phone and the platform:

From left: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung (new), Samsung (old)

Depending on which platform you are on which platform your recipient sees, your message could be: "I want to dance with the lady in red!", "I want to dance with Dora the Explorer!", Or "I want Generic White Man in Yellow Dancing Pants! "

RELATED: How to Change Emoji Skin Tones on iPhone and OS X |

Speaking of generic people, updates aren't the only thing that causes problems. Old phones that work to old standards and sort out codes they don't even recognize can also cause really embarrassing hiccups.

When Apple released a ton of new emoji in 2015, people applauded them for having a few emoji with them showing different skin tones, family structures, and so on. Unfortunately, when people with the updated versions of iOS sent the new emoji to people with older versions of iOS instead of just showing an empty placeholder (as is common with other mobile operating systems or common in inter-platform communication) the older versions of iOS tried doing a very strange job and translating the new emoji.

Instead of showing an empty placeholder, the older versions of iOS translated all new skin-tone emoji to the white version of that emoji plus an alien symbol. For a diversity update, that's more than a little embarrassing.

Similar, if not quite as embarrassing, situations can arise when old phones attempt to translate new emoji. In the best case scenario there is only an empty placeholder, in the worst case a benign message can become an offensive one.

Emoji Fu: Face Save Skills

Now that you know how emoji work and where things can fall apart you can do anything to reduce emoji-related communication snafus? While the increasing adoption and adherence to emoji standards is helping everyone, here are a few simple tricks you can use.

When in doubt, skip the emoji entirely. The newer and more specific the emoji, the higher the chance it won't be parsed correctly on the other end. Not only that, but research has shown that the way people interpret emoji varies greatly, even when looking at the same emoji and even more so when the face varies across platforms.

Apple's grinning emoji is a little too similar to their grimacing emoji.

The table above, drawn from research by the GroupLens Research Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, shows how emotion-independent various responses should be. Additionally, in the same study, even if looking at the exact same emoji, there was a 1 in 4 chance that viewers disagreed on whether the face was positive or negative. While any new makeover to the emoji code tends to make the emoji more similar across platforms, it should be kept in mind.

However, if you do use emoji, you can reduce the chances of clumsiness by favoring older and more established emojis. The simple smiling face, heart, thumbs up, hand gesture, and the like have been part of emoji code for years and there are very few differences between them.

Finally, if you really want to do your homework (or you are the concerned about giving a wrong impression on a potential romantic partner) you can always use the numerous resources that catalog the emoji codes such as the Emojipedia Catalog-a service so thorough that you can check not only old versions of the emoji code, but them also warn you thoughtfully if a particular emoji is known to be problematic display on various platforms, like the grimace face mentioned above.

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