Emojis were originally invented to allow people to say more in a character-limited message format. Since then, the emoji culture took off and continued expanding throughout the years. Emojis help to add a tone to the messages, ensuring better understanding. Several emojis received a skin tone modifier in 2015, but many, including the handshake, still don’t support it.
First Skin Tone Modifiers
The Unicode consortium introduced the skin tone modifier in 2015. Although it started with just a handful of emojis, the movement continued and spread to many more emojis ever since, including a number of hand gestures. Redditors have wondered and discussed for a long time why the handshake wasn’t one of them. Jeremy Burge, an emoji historian and founder of Emojipedia, set out to find out why some emojis remain excluded from the modifier.
Some Emoji Types Don’t Have Multiple Skin Tones
As it turns out, it’s not only the handshake that doesn’t feature multiple skin tones. The same goes for nearly any emoji featuring more than one person. These are family emojis, couples, wrestlers, people with bunny ears, and other multi-person groupings. The reason behind this is technical. New code points are needed for each hand or featured person to support mixed skin tones. This means that the coding would take a long time, a lot of work, and would have to support thousands of variations.
What the Future Holds for Emojis
There are plans for future releases to expand mixed skin tones to many two-person emojis and the handshake emoji. Users can likely expect these new emojis to be available in 2021 or 2022. However, Unicode has expressed the preference to leave the family emoji and all its variants as they are. This is because over 7000 variations would be needed to encompass the skin tones for each of the family members. Such an expansion seems difficult to implement and impractical to many vendors.