An emoji is a pictogram used primarily in chat or SMS communication. Unlike emoticons or smileys, emojis are not limited to expressing emotions, but can also, for example, reproduce terms from the subject areas “plants” or “animals” in image form.

history and background

Emojis originated in Japan, where these icons were developed in the late 1990s for a WAP-like portal service called i-mode. The invention of emojis is now mostly credited to Shigetaka Kurita, one of the co-developers of the i-mode project. At that time, users had the opportunity to enrich text messages with pictorial symbols by using emojis. As a result, users were able to use additional levels of meaning in the limited space of 160 characters and in some cases represent entire facts only with the help of emojis.

In accordance with the display technology of the time, the original emoji was only one color and limited to a maximum size of 12 x 12 pixels. Due to this restriction, the mobile phone pictograms were not subject to copyright. In this way, almost all Japanese mobile phone providers took the opportunity to develop emojis for their customers.

This is how the “emoji” trend was able to spread quickly in Japan. However, it took a few more years before emojis could spread just as successfully in Germany and Europe. On the one hand, mobile phone technology in this country was not yet geared toward the use of emojis, and on the other hand, little was known about the trend in Japan. A major step in the spread of emoji around the world was the adoption of emoji in Unicode in 2010.


From the beginning, emojis were not coded uniformly. Shift_JIS was originally used for this. Due to the further development of the symbols by different mobile phone providers, different variants have spread and multiplied at the same time. In the beginning, there were only 176 different characters, but in 2010 over 700 were finally counted.

Since 2010, emojis can be displayed uniformly worldwide using Unicode. Major smartphone manufacturers now widely support the use of emojis. Apple has offered support for emojis since the introduction of iOS 6, and Android smartphones can handle emojis depending on the model. The mobile operating system Windows Phone also masters the “emoji language”.



Emojis were originally sent from phone to phone in text messages in Japan. Today it is possible, among other things, to use emojis in chat programs such as Skype or social networks such as Facebook or applications such as Whatsapp. Current versions of the Android operating system and Apple’s iOS support the use of emojis. Entire facts can be expressed with the help of a few emojis. In this way, the use of emojis corresponds to the increasingly scarce time and extremely fast communication via smartphone and touch screen.

In the meantime, a novel has been published in Japan that was written exclusively in emojis. Book from the Ground is about a day in the life of a city worker.

Emoji vs Emoticons

Emojis are often equated with emoticons (smileys). As pictograms, emojis in SMS or chats often fulfill a similar function to emoticons, but they are much broader thematically. While emoticons convey feelings with the help of stylized facial expressions, emojis can represent entire facts with images, comparable to the cave drawings of our ancestors. Emojis, which can only be reduced to the representation of certain facial expressions, are also called Kaomoji. While emoticons can also be formed with conventional letters and punctuation marks, emojis are created using their own image files.

importance and criticism

Many emojis have a superordinate meaning beyond their purely factual ones. For example, individual animals in Asia often stand for something completely different. For example, the laughing frog can imply fertility, while the bird represents imagination. In addition, fruits or plants can also contain explicit erotic allusions, as well as the depiction of certain buildings.

Emojis were criticized for a while because they only depicted white-skinned faces and people. Finally, corporations like Apple advocated multicultural emojis. Stars like Miley Cyrus even started an online petition on Twitter on the same topic. In the meantime, the inventory of possible emojis is gradually being expanded. With the launch of Apple’s iOS9, faces with different skin colors and other characters were introduced.

Benefits for SEO

In the spring of 2015, Google began allowing and displaying emojis in search snippets. This way, many webmasters were able to provide more eye-catching snippets and probably a higher CTR. However, a note from John Müller followed in a hangout on Google Plus that webmasters shouldn’t bother inserting emojis into the meta-data because they were wasting time (“it is kind of a waste of time”). Whether emojis will one day appear again in the SERPs remains to be seen. However, the use of emojis in online marketing for campaigns controlled via Whatsapp or Facebook is still popular. In this case, emoji marketing is now also explicitly spoken of.


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