Ermal Alibali


The Fascinating History of Emoji: From Japan to Global Phenomenon

Emojis have become a ubiquitous part of modern communication, but their origins and development are often overlooked. In this article, I’ll explore the history of emojis, their rise to popularity, and their impact on contemporary communication.

girl with baloon

The Emergence of Emoji in Japan

Emojis were first created in the late 1990s by the Japanese telecom company NTT DoCoMo. Shigetaka Kurita, a designer at NTT DoCoMo, was tasked with creating a set of icons that could be used to communicate information in a limited space. Kurita drew inspiration from manga and kanji characters to create a set of 176 pictograms, including smiley faces, hearts, and weather symbols.

The initial release of emoji was only available on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode mobile internet platform, but the popularity of the icons quickly spread across Japan. By the early 2000s, other Japanese mobile carriers had adopted emojis, and they had become a standard part of Japanese communication.

The Global Rise of Emoji

It wasn’t until the release of Apple’s iPhone in 2007 that emojis began to gain traction outside of Japan. The iPhone included an emoji keyboard, and Apple’s decision to include the icons in its operating system helped to popularize them worldwide.

Other tech companies followed suit, and soon emojis were available on Android, Windows, and other platforms. The Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit organization that standardizes character encoding for digital communication, began including new emoji in its updates, further expanding the number of available icons.

Today, there are over 3,500 emoji available, covering everything from animals and food to professions and facial expressions. Emojis have become a ubiquitous part of modern communication, used in text messages, social media posts, emails, and even professional communication channels.

The Impact of Emojis on Communication

Emojis have had a significant impact on contemporary communication, both positive and negative. Here are some ways that emojis have changed the way we communicate:

1. Emoji Help Convey Emotion

One of the primary benefits of emojis is that they help convey emotion in digital communication. Studies have shown that people are better able to understand the emotional content of a message when emojis are used, particularly in contexts where tone and inflection can’t be easily conveyed.

2. Emoji Can Lead to Miscommunication

On the flip side, emojis can also lead to miscommunication. Emoji are open to interpretation, and what one person perceives as a friendly gesture may be interpreted as sarcastic or insincere by another. Additionally, emojis can be misused or overused, leading to confusion and frustration.

3. Emoji Have Cultural Implications

Finally, it’s important to note that emojis have cultural implications. Some emoji have different meanings or connotations in different cultures, and what may be perceived as innocuous in one context may be offensive in another. It’s important to be aware of cultural differences when using emojis in communication.


Emoji have come a long way since their humble beginnings in Japan in the late 1990s. Today, they are a global phenomenon, used by billions of people every day to communicate with one another. As we continue to integrate emojis into our communication strategies, it’s important to be mindful of their impact and to use them responsibly.

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