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The real reason why you might be seeing random alien emoji - Mashable

MashableThe real reason why you might be seeing random alien emojiMashableYou'll see them if you're running iOS 8.3 or OS X 10.10.3. But what if you're not? It turns out that on other devices — even devices running earlier Apple software — you might see the standard emoji character paired with an alien instead of the new diverse ...Apple Finally Releases Racially Diverse Emojis, but People Are Pissed There's ...E! OnlineHow to access the new diverse emoji in iOS 8.3CNETEE's WiFi calling service now works on iPhones after iOS updateEngadgetSydney Morning Herald -Wall Street Journal (blog) -USA TODAYall 154 news articles »
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Image: Disk Cactus

Apple released iOS 8.3 on Wednesday. The new software includes support for new emoji with different skin tones.

You'll see them if you're running iOS 8.3 or OS X 10.10.3. But what if you're not? It turns out that on other devices — even devices running earlier Apple software — you might see the standard emoji character paired with an alien instead of the new diverse emoji. Or you might just see a white square.

So what's going on? It has to do with how older operating systems handle fallbacks for the new characters.

In the Unicode Consortium's draft document dedicated to emoji diversity, there is a section that deals with how to deal with fallback and unsupported systems.

The idea is that if an operating system or font family supports some of the newer emoji, but doesn't have separate images for each skin tone color, it can display the standard emoji character in the library alongside a swatch of the intended color.

This is how it looks on Twitter, which uses its own emoji font:

Screen Shot 2015-04-08 at 6.58.43 PM

On systems that don't support the new emoji, the standard emoji character will show up alongside a white box — or in the case of iOS 8.2, an alien.

ios 8.3

Given how long it can take the various operating system makers to update their emoji platforms, and how infrequently people update their mobile OS anyway, using the new diverse emoji on your latest and greatest Apple device could mean that your friends end up seeing a lot of white boxes — with or without aliens — for some time.

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