WASHINGTON – There are smiley, sad and heart emoji — and now, for the first time, there will be racially diverse emoji.
Apple is preparing to release nonwhite faces in its lineup of the cartoon faces that some people use to liven up text and email messages. In its next update of the icons, the faces will be available in six different skin tones, U.S. media said Monday.
Apple said the inclusion of the faces reflected its commitment to improving diversity.
But by Tuesday, the technology giant was facing criticism that the vibrant shade of yellow chosen for the Asian faces was bordering on racist.
“Are we really that yellow?” wrote one person on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo.
“That yellow is really yellow, how can a man be so yellow?” asked another.
CNN’s website said these are just some of 300 new emoji included in the latest developer version of iOS 8.3. The new icons will not be available to the public until the update is released later this year.
The task is not simple. The keyboard of illustrated icons is based on Unicode, the standard for text, numbers and emoji across all platforms.
Emoji originated in Japan and were added to the Unicode Standard in 2010. Apple first included them in iOS in 2011.
“Apple supports and cares deeply about diversity, and is working with The Unicode Consortium to update the standard so that it better represents diversity for all of us,” said an Apple representative, according to CNN.
The Unicode Consortium sets international rules for text and characters to ensure consistency across platforms. This allows people to send, say, an emoji from an iPhone to someone with an Android device.