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Apple Responds to Calls for Emoji Diversity

Miley Cyrus and the "Smart Guy" have spoken up for more culturally diverse emoji. So why is it taking so long?
This is pretty much the extent of emoji diversity on the iPhone.Keith Wagstaff / iOS 7

Emoji are an adorable way to express your emotions on the iPhone. Unfortunately, they are not the most racially diverse group of symbols.

On Wednesday, Apple declared that it would change that. Katie Cotton, Apple’s vice president of worldwide corporate communications, recently replied to a letter from MTV ACT blogger Joey Parker:

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.

So there you go. The wheels are in motion for a more diverse world where emoji of all races unite on your iPhone to express joy or sadness or hunger for pizza.

The issue was widely publicized in 2012 by Miley Cyrus, wrecking ball for Internet justice, when she tweeted a sarcastic reply to Sephora’s tweet about adding more nail colors to the emoji universe. That sentiment was seconded by former “Smart Guy” star Tahj Mowry earlier this month.

Adding multicultural emoji does not seem too difficult. So what is the hold-up?

It’s a little complicated. The non-profit Unicode Consortium needs to make sure any characters added — from emoji to Egyptian hieroglyphics — are accurate, not offensive, and not already included in the Unicode standard.

This is pretty much the extent of emoji diversity on the iPhone.Keith Wagstaff / iOS 7

If every company used their own standard, an emoji sent by an iOS user might not be rendered correctly by an Android user.

That is why most companies agree to use the Unicode standard and why the Unicode Consortium takes its time with changes. With this pressure, however, the organization might be more inclined to hurry things up.