A post from Shady Characters

Emoji, part 3: go west

This is the third in a series of thirteen posts on Emoji (😂). Start at PART 1, continue to PART 4 or view ALL POSTS in the series.

In 2011, Apple became the first big tech company in the West to visibly embrace emoji. The detailed, glossy symbols that appeared that year on the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard were a far cry from Shige­taka Kurita’s lo-fi efforts and they went on to become the de facto standard for modern emoji design. But though Apple holds the emoji 👑, it was Gmail, Google’s email service, that had first dragged emoji out of Japan and onto the world stage. And drag it had to, for emoji did not come quietly.

In the mid-2000s, as Google sought to expand its reach in Asia, it prepared to make Gmail, its email service, available to users in Japan. Emoji were as unfamiliar outside their native country as they were beloved inside it,* but Take­shi Kishimoto, product manager for Google in Japan, knew that a successful launch would depend on their inclusion. His bosses agreed in principle but balked at one symbol in particular: Takeshi was adamant that Gmail must include a poo emoji.2 Promptly, the 💩 hit the fan.

Google Scholar. “Search for ‘emoji’ Between 1999 and 2006”. Accessed September 18, 2018.




A search for scholarly papers from the years 1999–2006 containing the word “emoji” returns only a handful of articles in English.1 

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