SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Millions of us have been adding colorful emoji characters to our messages. But have you ever wished for an emoji that isn't there? Two Bay Area women just got theirs approved. 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney has a look at you how you can, too.
It began with yellow smiley faces on your phone. Now, you can choose from more than 1,000 emoji characters. There are 70 new characters coming out next month. But who gets to decide which ones?
Emoji characters now come in a variety of skin tones and Google has proposed adding representations of women in the workplace.
Now, a San Francisco group says everyone should have a voice in deciding the future of the emoji, and guess what we found out, you can have a voice.
The tiny characters spice up text messages, but some say they are more than silly cartoons. "Emoji is a global digital language that is evolving right now," Jennifer Lee said.
Lee and designer Yiying Lu wanted a voice in that evolution. And it all began with a text message about dumplings. "My friend Yiying wanted to send me a dumpling emoji and there wasn't one," Lee said.
Her iPhone had emojis for pizza, hamburgers, even dancing girls, but no Chinese food. "If there is no dumpling emoji then whatever system is in place has clearly failed," Lee said.
So, who decides which emojis get on our phones? "They're highly defined and regulated by an organization called the Unicode Consortium," Lee said.
A little known tribunal of engineers in Mountain View adopt all keyboard characters worldwide. Emojis are a tiny part, but their explosive popularity brought the obscure group out of the shadows "We were taken a bit surprised by how quickly it developed," Unicode Consortium President Mark Davis said.
"The decision-making process around emoji and the discussion process should be more open," Lee said.
Eleven engineers pay $18,000 a year for a voting membership on Unicode Consortium. Most represent tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft. Davis insists it's not exclusive. "A lot of people are surprised that anyone can propose an emoji," Davis said. "Anyone can propose an emoji."
So Lee and Lu fought for their dumpling. They raised money on Kickstarter to buy a seat at the Unicode Consortium. In the end, they didn't need it. "The power is in everybody's hands it's just a matter of awareness," Lu said.
Lu designed the dumpling. Lee wrote the proposal and the Unicode Consortium gave its blessing.
Their dumpling will appear on your phones next year, so will their Chinese takeout box and a fortune cookie.
But not everyone gets their wish. "It's a shame that redheads seem to be the only natural hair color that's not included," Emoji petitioner Emma Kelly said.
Kelly's group "Ginger Parrot" petitioned Apple to include a red-headed emoji. Others demanded a giraffe, a lobster and a leprechaun. "We expect people that are proposing an emoji to make a case for it. Is it going to be used a lot?" Davis said.
Seventy new characters made the cut and are coming out next month. You'll see one rolling on the floor laughing, fist bump and the avocado. "If you had a runner that would be nice," one woman said.
Folks we talked to had their own ideas. "Emoji with a tractor," a boy said.
"A guy with a helmet, and then you could create your own team," one man said.
Lee and Lu formed a "Emojination" whose motto is "emoji for the people by the people."
They hope you will submit your own proposals.
Click here to submit your proposal for a new emoji.
Click here for the new emoji list.
7 On Your Side reveals how you can create an emoji, get it approved
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