Users debate new, diverse emoji options

Apple unveiled a beta version of new, non-white emoji options yesterday, spurring a conversation on whether the new choices are an effective way to address diversity while texting.

The changes come after months of public criticism aimed at Apple and the Unicode Consortium, the group that controls emoji standards, for a lack of diversity among emoji skin tones.

The new emoji options include six new skin tones for each emoji of a person, which users will be able to select from a drop-down menu, according to The Atlantic. The default skin tone will be bright yellow, a color which Unicode has dubbed a neutral, “nonhuman” option but has brought backlash from people who say the color seems to reference a racist stereotype of Asian skin tones.

The choices are based on tones from the Fitzpatrick scale, a classification system used in dermatological research. Dermatologist Thomas Fitzpatrick developed the scale at Harvard Medical School in 1975 based on the way each skin tone reacted to UV rays.

In November, Unicode announced that it would create more diverse emoji in a draft of a new standards proposal:

People all over the world want to have emoji that reflect more human diversity, especially for skin tone. The Unicode emoji characters for people and body parts are meant to be generic, yet following the precedents set by the original Japanese carrier images, they are often shown with a light skin tone instead of a more generic (nonhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange color or a silhouette.

The update also introduced emoji for families with same-sex couples, new country flags and updated technology emoji, including an iPhone 6 and Apple Watch.

A beta version of the update is available to developers, according to MacRumors. The new versions are being tested with iOS 8.3 and OS X 10.10.3, and Apple has not announced a release date, The Week reported.