Gina Mei
April 08, 2015 4:08 pm

The highly-anticipated racially diverse emojis are officially available for our textual pleasure — and they were totally worth the wait.

Earlier today, Apple released iOS 8.3, a software update which includes multiple improvements to the Messages app, new wireless CarPlay capability, a tabs feature for Safari, and quicker app response times, amongst a few other general improvements. But the most exciting part of the update was the official release of the racially diverse emojis we’ve been talking about since late last year; and let’s just say we’re feeling major heart-eyes about them already.

Originally, Unicode (the developer behind emojis) estimated that the new emoticons wouldn’t be available until June 2015, and we couldn’t be more excited that we’ve gotten our hands (or, I guess, our fingers) on them a couple months earlier than expected. As previously reported, the new emojis work in the same way all touchscreen phones normally handle character variations: when you hold down a key, a little menu of modification options pops up for you to pick from (basically, it’s the same thing you do when you’re typing “Beyoncé” and want to get the accent on the “e”). There are five available modifiers for the people-emojis, based on Fitzpatrick skin types — the standard scale in dermatology used to classify skin shade based on how easily the skin burns or tans. The “normal” people-emojis are now a very unnatural LEGO-yellow, but the modifiers quickly turn them into a variety of more realistic colors. It’s awesome; and in case we weren’t already heavy-handed enough on our emoji usage before, we’re about to go into overdrive.

As we’ve said before, the new emojis are a huge deal. Unlike traditional emoticons (e.g. those classic, bright yellow smiley faces that littered pop-ups in the early ’00s), emoji-people are actually designed to look somewhat more realistic (but still, of course, in a fun and lovable cartoon-y way). The original emojis were not diverse at all, because they were based off of Japanese carrier images. Given how popular emojis have become worldwide (understatement), it’s amazing to see that the developers have adjusted their product to reflect its audience in such an inclusive way. No skin color should ever be the “default,” and no one skin color should ever be the only option for “normal.” Giving skin color options to something as seemingly insignificant as a sassy smiley face may seem small, but it’s a huge first step — and a totally rad way to prove how much diverse representation matters.

In even more exciting news, the update also includes new LGBTQ+ emojis, which just adds to all the awesomeness and further proves that Unicode is putting in an active effort to better represent its users. There’s no word yet on when the new diverse emojis will be available for Android phones, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later, and we can all get back to using them everywhere soon.

(Images via, via.)

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