Difference between Emoticon and Emoji you must know

Emoji and emoticons are not one and the same thing but the confusion remains as they are often used and understood interchangeably. It is true that both of them helps us save loads of time while texting but their differences can’t just be ignored.

“Emoticons”, as you may know, are a typographical display of a facial expression, used to convey an emotion in a text only medium.

For Example: :-)being commonly used to express a simple smiling face.

Emoticons which are short for “emotive icons,” (emotive meaning “expressing a person’s feeling or emotion”) are simply icons that express emotions. Emoticons have been found in vertical form since the early 20th century, however, sideways emoticons are surprisingly a recent invention, dating back to 1980s.

Though invented multiple times over the history, its internet version as known to us today was developed by a Computer Scientist Scott Fahlman in September 1982. He started using emoticons to make his colleagues and students to understand the sentiment behind the message. Fahlman who was a part of an online message board at the Cargenie Mellon University often found that people failed to understand the message that was meant to be sarcastic or a joke, this would lead to need to lengthy explaining, and often the topic of discussion was buried.

So he came up with the idea of a sideways smiley and posted it on the message board at CMU in September 1982. The following is a copy of his original post.

19-Sep-1982 11:44 Scott E Fahlman :-)

From: Scott E Fahlman

I propose the following character sequence for joke markers:


Read it sideways. Actually, it probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use


However, Fahlman didn’t archive the original thread since he had no clue that such a trivial message would help change the way people communicate digitally. The original post was revived on September 10, 2002, after a machine was developed capable of reading old tapes and decrypting information on them.

In contrast to the modest creation of the emoticon, emoji were created by the NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese communications firm in the late 1990s. The name “Emoji” is a combination of words e and moji, which translates to pictograph.

Unlike emoticons which are text-based, emoji are pictographs or more commonly just actual pictures of anything and everything in a compact form. They are actually just an extension to emoticons by using a character set which is interpreted by the Operating System.

Emoticon and Emoji

Emoji are treated by the system as letters from a nonrecognizable language, so it means that the software must be capable of supporting it otherwise it is forced to display a placeholder icon or even just a blank space like (👻) which you may not see if your browser doesn’t support this particular emoji.

So the use of emojis require higher caution since each company has to provide its own interpretations of what the emoji description should look like – and they often differ. The squinting smiling faces aren’t a universal language as the world trusts them to be. They are tech firm’s personal creation which can be highly irregular and even be confusing for the most people.

Moreover to complicate matters, some emoji are also referred to as emoticons. The categorisation of emoji marks this difference. Emoji which express facial expressions and emotions are separated out as ” emoticons” while the others fall under the ” Miscellaneous” category.

But there’s more.

The recently developed kaomoji developed by the Japanese may mislead people to think of it as another form of emoji but it is more similar to emoticons. Independently developed around the same time as that of emoticons, kaomoji use a full character set and can be read vertically. They can be as simple as (*_*) or even as complex as (ノ◕ヮ◕)ノ*:・゚✧. or ಠ_ಠ.

And then there’s recently developed stickers developed by independent messaging clients. These are custom pictures highly specific to the app leading to no uniformity whatsoever.

So the next time when you hear these terms don’t be 「(゚ペ) (confused) because you know it all now.

Saksham Dewan

Saksham Dewan is a blogger from India, a quizzer, a chess player, and a finance enthusiast. He is a student at Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies majoring in Finance. He loves to write on topics he startled by, be it be anything. To fulfill his quizzing dreams he also runs a Business Quizzing Blog, bizquizwhiz.com not only to pursue his interests but also help others preparing for such quizzes.