© 2024 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2015 Emoji Update Will Include More Diverse Skin Tones

Next year, emoji characters will reflect a wider diversity of races.
Unicode Consortium
Next year, emoji characters will reflect a wider diversity of races.

Responding to users' complaints about a lack of characters whose skin reflects the variety of people who use smartphones, the group that sets technical standards is adding five more shades to the mix.

The Unicode Consortium had previously backed only one skin color, a yellow-orange tone that it considered generic. But it threw away that approach after a wide call for more variety.

If you're late to the emoji party, they're the characters that use faces and other humanlike images to express emotions and ideas. The new plan lets people use emoji that look like them — and they'll also be able to make groups of emoji in which the faces don't all look like one another.

The change would take effect next year; here's how the consortium explains it:

"People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.

"Unicode Version 8.0 is adding 5 symbol modifier characters that provide for a range of skin tones for human emoji. These characters are based on the six tones of the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology (there are many examples of this scale online, such as FitzpatrickSkinType.pdf). The exact shades may vary between implementations."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.