Colours - both for emoji and otherwise

William_J_G Overington via Unicode unicode at
Tue May 15 09:15:07 CDT 2018

Years ago this mailing list had some wonderful long discussions.

A similar such discussion may be interesting now on the topic of Colours - both for emoji and otherwise, as recent developments could possibly be leading towards a major change in Unicode.

A few days - including a weekend - before the recent UTC (Unicode Technical Committee) meeting there appeared in the Current UTC Document Register for 2018 the following document.

I wrote some comments and sent them in as feedback. They are available as the last listed item in the Encoding Feedback for that particular UTC meeting.

However, the original 18141-emoji-colors.pdf document has been revised twice since that feedback and the following is the present version.

It seems to me that there are, in a Unicode context, at least two possible ways that the use of a white square next to an emoji of a brown bear could "indicate that an emoji has a different color".

One way is that the person viewing the white square next to an emoji of a brown bear 'knows' that a white bear is intended and 'understands' that that is the intended meaning - that could be useful as it is language-independent so communication through the language barrier of mention of a white bear is possible. I just wrote language-independent but I am wondering if 'knowing' that and 'understanding' that mean that the use of those characters in that way is part of an emoji-based language. I am not a linguist and maybe some people who are linguists might like to comment on that and also maybe on the whole notion of emoji characters being used to produce languages - not necessarily constructed languages but also languages that are arising and evolving naturally but at a much faster rate than natural languages evolved historically. 

Another way is that the rendering system displays an emoji of a white bear instead of the white square next to an emoji of a brown bear.

Yet would what I have just referred to as an emoji of a white bear actually be an emoji as such or would it be a "just" a picture glyph and not an emoji as such as it is not a separately encoded character?

What makes the present situation interesting though and thus worth a discussion is the following.

The new characters about colours are listed in sections 5 and 6 of the following document.

Yet the minutes of the UTC meeting,

has the following.

> Discussion. UTC took no action at this time.

Now maybe that was later overridden by later discussions yet not listed in the minutes under Emoji Colors as such, but I am wondering if that refers to whether, and if so, how, a white square next to an emoji of a brown bear could be specified within The Unicode Standard so that such a sequence were to become rendered as a glyph of a white bear.

Yet I am wondering if another set of characters, colour operators, should be defined for such an automated purpose, yet also have a displayable glyph for graceful fall-back display when automated rendering is not possible: the colour operators being encoded in plane 14;  yet also having a mode where the colour operator could be displayed as a zero-width space as an alternative graceful fall-back display.

Yet colours are being talked about in relation to emoji. What about with other characters, such as letters of the alphabet?

The encoding of colours is fascinating and may be the next big thing with Unicode, so a discussion in this mailing list as to what is possible and what is desirable could be of importance.

William Overington

Tuesday 15 May 2018

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