Unicode Frequently Asked Questions

Emoji Submission

Q: Who can submit a proposal for an emoji?

The Unicode Consortium has developed an emoji submission process that is fair, balanced, and open to anyone, from individuals to non-profits to companies to governments. The process involves selection factors that are applied as objectively as possible to each proposal. The same selection factors are also applied to proposals from members of the Unicode Consortium.

Q: Why do I need to grant a license to the Unicode Consortium as part of my emoji proposal submission?

The Unicode Consortium openly and freely licenses its various standards, documentation, and tools to anyone. See the Unicode License Agreement and Terms of Use. Open and free licensing is the foundation of the Unicode Consortium’s mission to enable computers and mobile devices to support virtually every language in use in the world today. Because the Unicode Standard is openly and freely licensed, anything to be included in the Unicode Standard must be available to be openly and freely licensed, including emoji images. To ensure that, the Consortium requires not only a grant of license, but that you certify that your emoji images are either your own intellectual property, in the public domain, or covered by an open-source license.

Q: Why hasn’t my proposal for an emoji been accepted?

Standardizing new characters, such as emoji or emoji sequences, is a complex and deliberate process.

The Unicode Emoji Subcommittee has developed Guidelines for Submitting Unicode Emoji Proposals so the committee can be as objective as possible when evaluating emoji proposals. They outline the requirements for all proposals. The key selection factors are specifically designed to establish objective evidence for high expected usage, distinctiveness (aka “breaking new ground”), and a broad scope.

Q: Why are criteria necessary when standardizing emoji?

Only a limited number of new emoji can be standardized each year, meaning that even well-formed emoji proposals need to make a strong and compelling case in order to be considered over the many emoji proposals that are submitted during each intake cycle.

The process for standardizing new emoji involves balancing several factors. High among these factors is expected usage, meaning that if a proposed emoji is unlikely to be used by millions of people, then it is taking up space that could be occupied by a more popular emoji. Another important factor is breadth, meaning that when multiple variants of an emoji exist, their usage tends to be split among them, whereas a new emoji allows for new types of expression.

Q: Would starting an online petition at help?

The process of standardizing emoji is influenced neither by petitions nor by suggestions conveyed in emails, letters or tweets from celebrities or government officials. People should instead focus their efforts on preparing a complete and well-formed proposal for the emoji they want to be standardized, and to consider working together on a joint proposal.

Q: Can a single proposal cover multiple emoji?

No. Proposals that included multiple emoji were accepted in the past, but now that virtually every emoji category includes a rich selection of emoji, such omnibus proposals are no longer accepted.

Q: Why are emoji limited in variety?

In theory, one could have emoji for hundreds of breeds of dogs, or for 10,000 species of birds, and even variants of those (such as a large female Welsh Harlequin duck looking over its right shoulder with an egg in the foreground). In practice, however, there are many limitations, just not the same limitations as for other symbols in the Unicode Standard.

Emoji are useful only if they are broadly deployed by major vendors. If they are not, the Unicode Standard should not be burdened with emoji-like pictographic symbols that are never “emojified” by major vendors.

Each additional emoji or sequence represents a burden on memory and keyboard usability. The memory impact is particularly important for mobile devices in emerging markets.

In particular, adding a single human-form emoji results in the addition of three gender appearances and six skin tones, for a total of 18 emoji variants, resulting in significant impact on memory and keyboards.

Q: What if my [insert the name of your favorite emoji here] emoji is not accepted?

Depending on the platform and app, there is always the option of using emoji-style images (aka stickers) for more specific objects. Keep in mind that every character in the Unicode Standard is encoded forever, so if a particular emoji ever goes out of style, it forever blocks the slot for a future addition of some other character.

Q: Can I appeal the decision that declined my proposal or submit it again?

Emoji whose proposals were declined within the last two years are not eligible for re-review and cannot be re-submitted during that period. Various factors may cause a well-formed proposal to be declined, including lack of compelling evidence for popularity as an emoji and lack of anticipated support by major vendors.

Q: What makes the process for standardizing new emoji different from that for other characters?

Emoji are different from regular pictographic characters in important ways. They are colorful, playful representations of persons, places, or things—and combinations of those (such as a person riding a bicycle). For emoji, rather than looking for evidence of existing use in text—because emoji effectively cannot exist in text until they are standardized—the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee looks for evidence of likely high usage once they are standardized, plus several other factors. Like regular characters, a complete and well-formed proposal must be supplied, adhering to the instructions at Guidelines for Submitting Unicode Emoji Proposals.

Q: In what circumstances can non-emoji pictographic characters be proposed?

Non-emoji pictographic characters are typically limited to sets that were encoded for compatibility purposes such as dingbats, or for specialized domains such as math symbols or alchemical symbols. New non-emoji pictographic characters are subject to the same process as new letters or symbols, which involves demonstrating common use in plain text in some body of literature, following the instructions at Submitting Character Proposals.

The Unicode Consortium is not open to standardizing all possible graphic representations as non-emoji pictographs, and doesn’t accept non-emoji pictographic characters simply to fill in perceived gaps, such as completing a full taxonomic classification of animal species.

Q: Can existing pictographic characters be emojified?

No proposals to emojify existing characters are accepted any longer. Such proposals were accepted in the past, but that proved to be problematic for a variety of reasons.

Q: Where can I find out more information about emoji?

See the main Unicode Emoji page, the Emoji and Pictographs FAQ and Limitations on Emoji Encoding.