The coronavirus pandemic has already been wrecking release schedules for everything from blockbuster movies to new operating systems. But now, even something that’s been helping people stay connected in this time of social distancing is running into issues: emoji.
In a recent blog by the Unicode Consortium (the organisation responsible for approving new emoji), the group says that due to covid-19, it has “decided to postpone the release of version 14.0 of the Unicode Standard by six months, from March to September of 2021.” The UC also added that this delay in the release of version 14.0 will also impact related specs and data, including new emoji.
Sadly, the big impact of this delay means that we might not get to use the next new set of emoji until sometime in early 2022; while the Unicode Consortium could release a new batch in September 2021, there’s usually a lag between when new emoji are announced and when they actually become available.
Because a large part of the Unicode Consortium’s work comes from volunteers, the UC has been hit harder than other organisations. As consortium president Mark Davis says in the blog, “Under the current circumstances we’ve heard that our contributors have a lot on their plates at the moment and decided it was in the best interests of our volunteers and the organisations that depend on the standard to push out our release date. This year we simply can’t commit to the same schedule we’ve adhered to in the past.”
On the bright side, the delay Emoji 14.0 will not affect the release of the new emoji in Unicode Standard version 13.0, which was announced back in March and includes bangers like the beaver, polar bear, tamale, and ninja emojis. All the emoji in version 13.0 are expected to become available later this fall.
There is also a chance that Unicode Consortium could release new emoji sequences as part of Emoji 13.1. Instead of relying on all-new characters, emoji sequences are made up of existing emoji—like making a black cat emoji out of the regular cat emoji and the black large square emoji—and don’t require the coding of new characters. There’s no guarantee that they will be included as part of the Emoji 13.1 release, but if they are, we could see some new versions of existing emoji in 2021.
The Unicode Consortium says it will also be pushing back the submission date for new Emoji 14.0 proposals to September 2020, which may be enough time for someone to think of something that represents the global pandemic—although hopefully by then, we won’t need to use virus-related emoji anymore.