1. At long last, it appears as though the years-long fight for more racial diversity on the standard emoji keyboard may finally be over.

    On Monday, the Unicode Consortium — an industry group that standardizes digital characters, like emoji, across different software platforms — released a report proposing a much wider range of emoji skin tones in its next keyboard update.

    If all goes well, smartphone users will be able to modify the skin tone of any human emoji character by June 2015, when Unicode Version 8.0 launches.

    The available skin tones — which range from a light pink-ish colour to a dark blackish brown — will be based on six shades from the Fitzpatrick scale, a recognized standard for dermatology according to Unicode's report.
  2. "People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone," reads the technical report draft. "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."

    The report, which was edited by Mark Davis of Google and Peter Edberg of Apple, goes on to explain that smartphone users will be able to "bring up a mini-pallete of different skin tones" for any human character with a simple long-press on their keyboard.
  3. "Of course, there are many other types of diversity in human appearance besides different skin tones: Different hair styles and color, use of eyeglasses, various kinds of facial hair, different body shapes, different headwear, and so on," the report notes. "It is beyond the scope of Unicode to provide an encoding-based mechanism for representing every aspect of human appearance diversity that emoji users might want to indicate. The best approach for communicating very specific human images—or any type of image in which preservation of specific appearance is very important—is the use of embedded graphics."
  4. Racial diversity within the world of emoji have been the subject of much debate in recent years.

    Fun as though the characters may be to use, many — including celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Taj Mowry — have criticized the keyboard's nearly exclusive use of Caucasian characters.
  5. In March, Apple responded to an MTV query about the growing movement to make emojis more diverse.

    "We agree with you," said Apple's vice-president of worldwide corporate communications, Katie Cotton at the time. "Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms. There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard.”
  6. In June, however, the Unicode Consortium received a great deal of criticism when it released 250 new emoji characters.

    Included among the new characters were everything from a middle finger to a man levitating in a business suit, and yet no efforts appeared to have been taken to increase racial diversity on the keyboard.
  7. While Unicode's latest proposal is currently referred to as a "work in progress" that can be "updated, replaced, or superseded by other documents at any time,” many are hopeful that the skin-tone modification feature will come to fruition.

    As The Verge notes, "Given that this proposal comes from one Apple engineer and one Google engineer, who also happens to be president of the consortium, it's pretty clear that this is a real issue that tech companies want to address... any modern platform that you're using emoji on right now has a good chance of supporting diverse emoji sometime after the standard is finished."
  8. Do you use emoji? What do you think of Unicode's proposal? Weigh in with your thoughts below.
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