I honestly have yet to figure out what the fuck the point in most of these emojis is. In the past everybody just used a combination of existing ascii symbols to show the mood of your message, and I am still trying to figure out what the new emojis solve that that system didn't solve.
You need to understand a bit about where and why emoji's started showing up in the first place. And to do that, we go back to pre-millennium Japan.
Japanese is, to put it bluntly, an insanely crazy written language. Modern Japanese uses no less than four different scripts/alphabets, and in any given sentence different types of words may need to be in different alphabets!. They are:
- - Kanji: logographic elements taken from Chinese. These are symbols that stand for a word, phrase, or idea on their own. There are several thousand in modern use in Japan
- - Hiragana: a set of 46 symbols indicating syllables. These are typically used for native Japanese words that don't have a Kanji equivalent.
- - Katakana: a set of 48 symbols also indicating syllables. Indeed, many of these syllables are identical to those available in Hiragana, but with completely different symbols. These are used for loan-words, scientific terms, names of plants and animals, and for emphasis.
- - Romaji: as if all that isn't bad enough, some words (loanwords and trademarks) are written in the standard Latin script we use in English ([A-Za-z]).
And if all that wasn't bad enough, there is also hentaigana, which are obsolete kana sometimes used to give things like restaurants and such an old-timey feel (something akin to 'Ye Olde...' in English). And because the different scripts in Japanese are used for different types of words, you frequently have to switch between one and the others in a single sentence. In short, written Japanese is f'd up.
This is where Emoji came from. Imagine a late 1990's cell phone with the 12 standard buttons, and having to send text messages to someone in Japanese. How do you use those 12 buttons to select from thousands of Kanji symbols? How do you switch between Katakana and Hiragana and Romanji? I'll admit I'm not a Japanese speaker (I've studied the symbology, but not the language itself), but I'd think even typing "Hey, let's meet up with Akira at the McDonalds" would take a week on a standard flip-phone keypad. Thus emoji was invented to provide visual shortcuts for writing things that would otherwise be a major PITA to type in Japanese.
So basically, because written Japanese is so incredibly f'd up with four simultaneous scripts in modern usage...the Japanese decided to get around it by adding another script system.
Early iOS releases implemented Emoji to satisfy the Japanese market, but in can you don't recall that far back, it was originally only available if you set your system language to Japanese. In those early days, someone figured out how to write an app to enable the emoji keyboard in other languages, and eventually due to demand (which I'm assuming was mostly 12 to 14 year-olds) Apple eventually opened it up to everyone. At which point, hundreds of millions of people with sane written languages that use compact alphabets decided they were cute, and that they had to use them as much as possible.
Like yourself, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about the whole Emoji thing. I can understand why the Japanese needed to invent it, as their writing system is horrendous. I don't tend to directly use it myself, preferring to use old-style emoticons in personal correspondence; however, at this point most e-mail and chat systems will "upgrade" typed emoticons to emoji.
So there you go. A brief history of emoji.