Unicode has released version 12.0 beta, bringing us one step closer to the newest emoji that will be available beginning in March 2019. With each release, the digital characters form a more complete dictionary of what some have called the first global language
. (Whether or not they are “universal” is still to be seen—though perhaps we will
make first contact with extraterrestrials through the peace emoji.)
Though each new set of emoji includes a range of animals, food, objects, and people, themes do arise. Version 8.0, in 2015, included the first range of skin tones, and 12.0 will include mixed-race couples and families. (The emoji of a couple holding hands, for example, will have a whopping 55 variations.) Since version 8.0’s release, the trend toward inclusivity has been more apparent, with subsequent additions of same-sex couples, women professionals, elderly people, and wider-ranging religious and cultural icons.
Emoji in Unicode 12.0
will also offer more representation for people who live with disabilities—prosthetics, a guide dog, wheelchairs, and a deaf person are all featured. New animals will include the affable otter and the leisurely sloth (the latter of which, we suspect, will see its primetime on Saturday mornings), and new foods include staple ingredients like garlic, butter, and an onion, as well as foods like falafel and oysters. Notably, India is getting more cultural icons, with a hindu temple, sari, diya lamp, and tuk-tuk all making the cut. The first non-Earth planet also makes its debut, unsurprisingly, with Saturn and its easily identifiable rings.
But you may not see the newest emoji appear on your devices just yet. New emoji are published as part of Unicode Standard, which assigns all characters that appear on the web a specific number, in order to maintain a global standard for encoding. Following the release of new emoji, companies like Apple and Google then choose which ones to roll out, and when they’ll become available to smartphone users. (Redhead emoji, for instance, were announced this summer, but were only available for iPhone starting with iOS 12.1.)
So who holds the deciding power as to whether or not you get a waffle emoji? A nonprofit organization known as the Unicode Consortium. (While the name does evoke mysterious grandeur—a 2016 Los Angeles Times
article referred to its members as “shadowy overlords
”—its structure is entirely transparent and available for anyone to see