After Apple and Google suggested the Unicode Consortium add skin tones to emoji, more and more of the icons have evolved to become more inclusive. But there’s been one notable exception to that trend: the handshake emoji. It’s one of the only characters you can’t add a skin tone to — for reasons we’ll get into shortly. Thankfully, that’s about to change.
When the Unicode Consortium rolls out Emoji 14.0 sometime in 2022, it will include a new handshake character that will allow you to modify the skin tones of both the left and right hands for a total of 25 different combinations. Getting to the point where you’ll have that much flexibility with the handshake emoji has been something of a long journey for the Unicode Consortium and the person who pushed for the update.
Last year, The Next Web talked to Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge about the process. From start to finish, developing an emoji can take as much as two full years. What made the handshake particularly challenging is that it involves two people. The Unicode Consortium could have updated it earlier, but a limitation in its modifier coding would have had the hands sharing the same skin tone. And while some platforms adopted that approach, most decided to wait until Unicode added support for mixed skin tones. The organization has been building out that functionality since the release of Emoji 12.0.
COVID-19 added a wrinkle to everything. Jennifer Daniel, Google’s creative director for emoji, first proposed updating the handshake in 2019. After accepting her suggestion, the Unicode Consortium decided to include it in Emoji 14.0, which it had planned to release in 2021. But like with a lot of things over the past year, the pandemic led to a delay. Now that things are back on track, you should see the emoji on your phone sometime next year.
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