WordPress.com Gets New Standard and Secret Emoticons


Emoticons are believed to have been invented in 1982 by Scott Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, who suggested that they be used on “computer bulletin boards.” Though not widely used at that time, emoticon usage exploded with the popularity of AOL’s Instant Messenger in the 1990’s.

Now, more than 30 years later, emoticons are still going strong thanks to text and chat applications. They’re also still widely used in blogs. In fact, WordPress.com just gave their smilies a redesign to be “cleaner, simpler, bigger, more expressive, and modern.” The new emoticons were created to use vector graphics, which means that when you zoom in or view them on retina displays, they will still display beautifully.

Standard and Secret Emoticons on WordPress.com

WordPress.com smilies documentation includes all your standard updated smilies:


You can turn them on by navigating to Settings > Writing Settings:


Although there is no smiley-chooser interface in the post editor, hovering over an emoticon in use on WordPress.com will display a tooltip with the necessary code to make that particular smiley. Additionally, most of the smilies also work with dashes for noses.

At the end of the announcement, Automattic designer Joen Asmussen hints at the existence of secret smileys: “We also created a few secret emoticons for you to discover. Good luck finding them! ;)”

However, there’s no easy way to discover the secret ones unless someone shows you. The following are the secret smilies, as originally posted by Janneke Van Dorpe. They are undoubtedly a tribute to the fuel that powers WordPress.com developers:


Here’s how you make them:

(W) >-I |_| :developer: :burrito:

The design team at WordPress.com is working on expanding the collection of smilies, so there will be more to add to this list in the future.

Will Self-Hosted WordPress Sites Get Updated Emoticons?

If you’re a self-hosted WordPress site owner who is swooning over the new emoticons, you’ll be glad to know that there is a ticket to update emoticons in core, originally opened eight months ago. WordPress needs retina-ready smilies, but it’s not yet clear whether the new WordPress.com emoticons are a good option.

However, the new, modernized smilies have put this ticket back on everyone’s radar and we may see some action on it in the near feature. It looks like smilies are here to stay. Do you think they’ll be with us another 30 years?


15 responses to “WordPress.com Gets New Standard and Secret Emoticons”

  1. Ryan Duff says:

    The “redesign” link is wrong– it should be http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/new-emoticons/


  2. Keith Davis says:

    Thanks for the update on emoticons Sarah.
    I rarely use them but I do like the WordPress and Developer secret ones…


  3. Long live text based smileys!


  4. mycelus says:

    I want smilies on my bbPress and posts /:


  5. Geoffrey Liu says:

    Pretty entertaining emoticons here. Every project seems to have its Easter eggs!


  6. Abdul says:

    They’ll be with us forever. Waiting for self-hosted users. :) Existing one are still good enough option. Just make them available in jetpack! :) Good share, Sarah. Just few days ago, I started noticing that some sites have new emoticons. It’s time for WP.org owners to test them.


  7. Ryan Hellyer says:

    Hopefully someone converts this for self-hosted usage.


  8. I’ve made a plugin for this a couple of days ago actually. You can download it from GitHub (https://github.com/avryl/new-smileys). Maybe soon there will be a wordpress.org plugin too.


  9. What is the license for these emoticons? I’m interested in using them in other software as well for consistency.



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