What are your emojis really saying?
Photograph by Miguel Medina—AFP/Getty Images
By Claire Groden
January 26, 2016

That poop emoji survived a lengthy process of committee meetings and public scrutiny before ending up on your iPhone’s keyboard.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Unicode Consortium co-founder and president Mark Davis explained who, exactly, controls the world’s emoji options, and why adding new emojis takes so long.

Anyone is allowed to submit a proposal for a new emoji to Unicode, which is the non-profit group that governs and standardizes emojis. “It’s more than just saying, ‘Well, I think there should be a drunken chipmunk emoji,'” Davis said. “You have to give us some good reasons that would establish why it would be a successful and valuable addition.”

The 100 or so emoji proposals each year are sent to an emoji committee that judges the submissions on how frequently they might be used. Then, they forward submissions to a technical committee, says Davis. Then, the best emojis are placed on the Unicode site for a six-month period of public comment—a process not unlike the federal government’s commenting period for regulations. Only then can an emoji face the final annual committee meeting that decides to add the image to the Unicode collection.

While creating the emoji image doesn’t take very long, Davis said that creating options like toggling through skin tones for each emoji can add as much as a year in developing time.

Vendors like Apple and Google choose from Unicode’s offerings to update their emoji keyboards.

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