WordPress 4.2 on Track to Expand Core Support for Emoji

photo credit: Twitter.com
photo credit: Twitter.com

Emoji characters were born in Japan in the late 90’s but took nearly a decade to break into global usage. They entered popular culture full force when select emoji character sets were incorporated into Unicode in 2010. Since that time, emoji popularity has grown, and there’s no denying that they are mainstream and here to stay.

The good news is that better support for emoji will soon find its way into WordPress core. Last week, core contributor Gary Pendergast, unveiled a roadmap for better emoji support and detailed the current state of the feature plugin.

Pendergast has spent quite a bit of time immersing himself in the history of emoji and the requirements for their support. Pendergast filled contributors in on the status of WordPress core support for emoji:

As of r31349, WordPress partially supports emoji. ~60% of WordPress sites are running MySQL 5.5 or later (so can be upgraded to store emoji), and ~40% of browsers natively support emoji. Emoji are a wildly popular method of communication, so we can expect them to be heavily used as soon as they’re available. The problem is, 60%/40% means a really bad experience for a huge number of our users, who’ll try to use emoji, and fail.

Getting more WordPress sites to run on MySQL 5.5+ would be no small task, so the emoji feature plugin is working around this by adding a wp_encode_emoji() function to turn emoji characters into HTML entities for sites using the utf8 character set. This gets the remaining ~40% of sites nearly all the way there.

Twemoji Fallback

The feature plugin proposes that WordPress adopt the Twemoji image set as a fallback for browsers that don’t display emoji natively, which reduces the extra load, especially for mobile browsers. Twitter open sourced its Twemoji 872 character image set last November, simultaneously partnering with Automattic to bring emoji to WordPress.com users.

Pendergast reports that the plugin is close to being finished, with only a handful of remaining bugs to discuss. The plugin has already been briefly reviewed by the accessibility team and requires only a few minor changes. The issue of where to host the images is still under discussion, and Pendergast and contributors are considering different options:

They’re currently hosted on WP.com’s CDN, but we’re investigating other options for where to host them, probably the W.org CDN. Given that the wp-admin Dashboard also loads things from Google, I have no problem with hosting them on an external CDN. There will naturally be a filter on the URL, to allow local hosting for sites that don’t want to use the CDN.

WordPress is on track to provide more comprehensive support for emoji in the near future. Pendergast says the project is on target for the upcoming 4.2 release.

In the meantime, if you’d like to add emoji support to your self-hosted WordPress site, WP Emoji One is a good option. The plugin was the first to bring support for the open source Emoji One character set to WordPress posts and pages.

18 Comments


  1. Of all the things that should be in WordPress (better post type support, improving the comments system which has not seen any attention, two-factor auth built in, a better json api..) but yay i can now post a chicken face if i so please lol.

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  2. Can you hear that? No? It’s the sound of users clamoring for Emoji support in WP!

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  3. This is strange. This looks very much like plugin territory to me, and serving them via CDN seems even weirder.

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  4. (Joining the group of grumpy old men .. is there an emoji for that?), I don’t see the reason why this should be in the core when at the same time other “core” features are relegated to plugins

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  5. Think of all the people who’ve vowed not to use WordPress until it has Emoji character support built into its core. If this doesn’t drive WordPress to 50% market share, surly nothing will.

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  6. Wasn’t there a general rule that if something wasn’t going to be used by 80% of WordPress users, it shouldn’t be in core?

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  7. I too think adding Emoji support is a bit out there, but when listening to a recent interview of Matt Mullenweg where he mentions that Emoji is supported on nearly every mobile device coupled with the fact that the world has more mobile devices than people, then it seems counter intuitive for WordPress not to support it.

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  8. I find it annoying that something like this could get into core, but functionality for a standardized method of adding a custom site logo was built into JetPack instead of core – it should be the other way around.

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  9. No this is a good thing. Peeps reading my blog on their iPhones don’t always speak emoticon. :)

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  10. This is a paraphrase:
    Jimi Hendrix and his manager went to a gig; Jimi’s manager was not at all impressed with the talent, so he asked Jimi why he had come to this particular venue; Jimi responded, ‘you never know, you might find a gem in all that muck’.

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  11. I find this feature weird. But like @Jeff, after listening to Matt’s interview of Matt Mullenweg.. then yeah the addition of this sounds logical. More and more people are visiting sites & reading blogs on their mobile, so commenting with emojis (:poop:) isn’t so far fetched.

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  12. People see Emoji support as bad (i don’t totally agree)… you can try actual WordPress emoticons, i´m sure that you feel like in year 2000. Emoticons are already part of the core, why not update them?

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  13. I’m currently looking for information on what are exactly the supported emojis on WordPress (and still havent found some clues). But as people are using mobile devices more and more, emojis will be a nice element to bring attention to a post in the SERPs. Something like Expedia have started doing:
    https://www.google.com/webhp?q=hotels+cape+canaveral

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