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Emoji update will let users choose skin colour to boost racial diversity

A forthcoming update from the Unicode Consortium could change how multi-ethnic groups are represented in emoji.

Unicode 8.0 plans to introduce a skin-tone modifier, allowing users to add an ethnicity when they send an emotion.

Read more: Lost for words? Then this emoji-only social network could be just for you (opens in new tab)

Previously, Unicode regulations have stipulated that emojis should be "as neutral as possible regarding race, ethnicity and gender," suggesting that, where possible, a "generic (inhuman) appearance, such as a yellow/orange colour or a silhouette" should be used.

The update is scheduled for release by mid-2015, but the racial diversity proposals are currently only drafts at this stage.

It could be a while however before users are able to send emoji that reflect the wide variety of global diversities, as no major platform has yet offered its support for the Unicode 7.0 update released earlier this year. However, Apple's recently retired head of PR Katie Cotton did express interest in expanding the firm's emoji line-up.

"Our emoji characters are based on the Unicode standard, which is necessary for them to be displayed properly across many platforms," she said. "There needs to be more diversity in the emoji character set, and we have been working closely with the Unicode Consortium in an effort to update the standard."

The most recent emoji update adopted by an Apple platform was when the firm expanded native support beyond Japan for iOS 6 and made the feature available without needing a third party-app.

Read more: Sad faces all round as Microsoft pulls "offensive" Skype emojis (opens in new tab)

Earlier in the year, Microsoft removed a number of Skype emojis, including one of a woman wearing high heels, which could have been construed as offensive.

Image Credit: Emojipedia (opens in new tab)

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.