The world demands an emoji for every occasion, but soon, lovers of eyeballs and speech bubbles will finally get their day. It appears that Apple is about to release a mysterious new emoji. That’s it above. Weird, huh?
It’s actually pretty clever. Jeremy Burge, the founder of Emojipedia, just spotted the new emoji character in the developer previews of iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1. The emoji first shows up as a placeholder ellipsis, but when you hold your finger on it, you’ll see the old eyeball and speech bubble emoji side-by-side. The new emoji is actually those two emoji joined together to create a new emoji that Apple calls, appropriately, “eye in speech bubble.” In Burge’s words, “Nobody knows what it is, or why it exists.”
The practice of joining emoji characters is hardly novel. It uses a Unicode character call the Zero Width Joiner (ZWJ) to join the two emoji into a new one, though the ZWJ shows up as an invisible character. This is how Apple already creates some emoji, like the various family characters. Those emoji are actually just combinations of the individual man, woman, boy, and girl emoji characters. It’s actually very common, and Unicode even has a guide to how it works.
You’re probably still wondering what the heck “eye in speech bubble” is supposed to represent. Well, the emoji-makers at Unicode Consortium didn’t say anything about a new emoji, but they did confirm that this sort of thing isn’t against the rules.
“Vendors are free to make combinations of emoji using the ZWJ,” Unicode president and co-founder Mark Davis told Gizmodo. “The only constraint is that they are meaningful as a sequence.”
Feel free to interpret “meaningful” liberally. At least with “eye in speech bubble” it’s either a cheesy pun for iMessage or some sort of Illuminati symbol. Probably both.
Update (09.29.2015): Designer Erik Veland says he figured it out:
And Burge appears to back him up. However, everyone is still super puzzled about why Apple would make an anti-bullying emoji. We’ll know one day—maybe!
Images via Jeremy Burge