To say Twitter is international is an understatement. According to a company blog post in January, 70% of its users are based outside the U.S., and the platform supports microblogging in 33 different languages.
But whether the tweets are in Spanish, Arabic or Cyrillic, one thing seems to be clear: everyone loves emojis. That’s the thesis behind EmojiTracker, which tracks use of the emoticons on Twitter in realtime.
Blinking constantly with smileys, and dogs, and thumbs-up, EmojiTracker maintains a constant ranking of which Emojis are most popular on the microblogging network. Earlier this week, the number one emoji on EmojiTracker wasn’t the traditional smiley face — it was actually a heart on a white background. What users would consider the classic smiley didn’t even hit the top 10, which included various emotions as well as a red heart and the “okay” sign. Among the least-used Emoji were traditional signs like “no bicycles” and “luggage to the left.”
As you click on a specific emoji character, things start to get interesting. Along with the code for the selected Emoji, a ticker of tweets that show the context of each emoji rolls through (and often at a blinding pace).
There, you can see that certain emoji characters have dual meanings — for example, the “joy” emotion as it is noted in EmojiTracker is often used for both happy and very sad scenarios, as many interpret the face as hysterically crying. Others, like the “birthday cake” emoji, are used strictly in a context to denote someone’s birthday or an upcoming party. Tweet after tweet of “Happy birthday!” in various languages rolls by, some are even entirely made of emojis.
While emoji began as a Japanese phenomenon — the three big Japanese mobile operators have their own variants, and some emoji are specific to Japanese culture — they have since spread around the world. Although it’s a simple counter, EmojiTracker shows the universality of these emoticons.