Re: Emoji: emoticons vs. literacy

From: James Kass (
Date: Thu Jan 01 2009 - 14:32:47 CST

Asmus Freytag wrote,

>I think viewing emoticons globally as "just drawings" is not very

Even if such a view is accurate, it is not very helpful
to the proposal.

Quoting from Elsebeth Flarup's blog page entry
for 2008/12/23, "A slippery Unicode slope?", found here,

"Based on the responses (or mostly lack of responses)
from key people on the mailing list I think that this
proposal is a done deal, and that only minor adjustments
wrt. names, etc. will be accepted. It apparently doesn’t
hurt to have the clout of major Japanese wireless
companies, plus Google, behind you when you make
proposals like these. Even though the mobile phone
companies in question used User-Defined Characters
in the Shift-JIS encoding (and different ones per
company, to boot) which should entail no need for
them to be encoded in Unicode. Which tells me that
the real mover behind this is probably Google, since
they are the ones sucking up content from everywhere,
and need to be able to store it in Unicode."

That's an interesting thought.

As we've discussed here previously, the telephone companies
have apparently already resolved *their* interoperability
issues by mapping from their own user defined mutually
incompatible Shift-JIS encodings into Unicode's PUA consistently.

Does that leave Google as the primary mover and shaker here
for the above stated reason? If so, why on earth doesn't
Google simply require "alt text" for these cute little images
and index the "alt text"? (Isn't that what they *do* with images,
anyway?) And just how hard are these Japanese vendors really
pushing for plain-text inclusion, since their own issues appear
to be resolved? Has there really been any contact with the
user community?

If round-tripping is the goal, unifying icons with existing
characters may fail. After somehow leaking into a database and
being retrieved and resent to the originating phone, an existing
Unicode character wouldn't be converted back into the cute
little picture icon, would it? After all, only the PUA code
points get so converted, right? Any valid Unicode character
returned might well get displayed as a missing glyph, if these
systems aren't supporting Unicode (or Unicode symbol characters)
in the first place.

Sure, the vendors could upgrade their systems. Earlier it was
mentioned that vendors wouldn't be interested in expanding
their icon sets because it would be too costly. I tend to disagree
with that, but what of the cost of upgrading required in order to
support newly required Unicode characters? Does it really make
good business sense for the vendors to make such an investment if
their issues are already resolved?

Suppose they do make such an investment and change their
systems to substitute pictures for certain Unicode characters.
What happens when their users try to display valid Unicode
characters which were sent *as* valid Unicode characters?
Would everyone be happy to see *those* characters get converted
into cute little icons?

Best regards,

James Kass

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