After Apple update: Where are the family emojis?

Maybe you'll be up after the update iOS 17.4, on macOS 14.4 or another current operating system version from Apple, I noticed that the family emojis had disappeared from the corresponding overview. Regardless of whether you are a single parent or two parents with one or two children - the little pictures with the corresponding combinations of people are gone. But they were not deleted without replacement. Instead of them, there are now corresponding pictograms that you can select in another category of the emoji overview. I have summarized why this is so in this article.

Instead of thousands of options for customizing the different family emojis, they have now been boiled down to four symbols. The genders and skin tones of individual family members are no longer differentiated.
Instead of thousands of options for customizing the different family emojis, they have now been boiled down to four symbols. The genders and skin tones of individual family members are no longer differentiated.

Inclusive emojis have been in development since 2015

Since 2015, the... Unicode Consortium worked to make emojis more inclusive. The measure that was decided at the time consisted of integrating five skin colors - for example for hands and individuals. With these, it was relatively easy to give the yellow emojis each five skin tones in addition to their standard color.

In theory, this could be applied just as easily to family emojis, but only for combinations of people who have the same skin tone. And that doesn't always reflect the reality that the symbols are supposed to represent. Especially since over time, in addition to the father-mother-child model, same-sex couples and single parents were also introduced as images.

Adjustments for 25 person combinations too extensive

From 2019, the option to select individual skin tones was introduced for various other person emojis - such as people running, those with a long cane or those in a wheelchair. This raised the question among users as to why the now 25 family emojis could not also be given skin colors. Apple in particular continued to only offer them in the standard yellow.

When it came to defining the corresponding Unicode standards, we were slowly reaching a limit. Being able to use one of the skin colors for each individual in each family emoji would mean a total selection of around 52.000 combinations. Not only on mobile devices, but also on computers, whether Mac or PC, this would be difficult to display clearly.

Emoji builders for presetting would have to be standardized

Microsoft already tried to solve the problem in 2016 with an emoji construction kit. Back then, a family emoji could be selected and the desired skin tone set for each person featured in it. In this way, a preset could be created for your own family, which could then be selected quickly and easily. The problem: when displaying this individual emoji on other or older systems, these individualizations could not be implemented. Instead, a single emoji was then displayed for each person.

Facebook had also taken up the matter on a trial basis. In 2017, the platform simply assigned each of the family emojis a selection of skin tones. However, this was then adopted for all family members shown, which - as described above - does not always correspond to reality and therefore cannot represent an actual representation of the sender. But this measure already resulted in a selection of 125 different emojis. Adapting this again would have resulted in a selection interface that was too large or a separate emoji construction kit. This would only have worked on Facebook and not across systems.

The solution: four emojis and a lot of imagination

Both Google and Apple have already resorted to the solution, which can now be found in iOS, macOS and Co., among others. This consists of completely removing both the genders of the individual parents and children as well as their skin colors from the emojis. There are therefore only four symbols left, each showing specific silhouettes - two parents with one child, two parents with two children, one parent with one child and one parent with two children.

Accordingly, the family emojis are now also housed with the symbols and pictograms, and no longer with the designed people. A very pragmatic solution. It can be assumed that this will also be adopted by other companies in the future. Loud Emojipedia So far only Google and Apple have implemented the change. Microsoft, Samsung, WhatsApp, Facebook, X and so on have not yet followed suit.

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