Dinosaur Emoji Timeline

You may be aware that we now have at our disposal two of the world's finest emoji: 🦖 and 🦕.

One of my proudest accomplishments is the work I did to help bring these to fruition. The timeline (and my contributions) are below.


Note: UTC=Unicode Technical Committee, the standards organization that determines what characters will be encoded for digital representation.

April 2, 2016

Courtney Milan (that’s me, I’m just writing about myself in the third person) submits document L2/16-072, aka COURTNEY'S JURASSIC EMOJI PROPOSAL, a proposal to encode three dinosaurs as part of the Jurassic emoji.

The document name makes it sound really technical but it is a very fine piece of writing from yours truly.

April 29, 2016

Andrew West submits feedback, someone else sends feedback on Andrew West’s feedback, requesting even moar dinosaurs, and accurate scientific representation. You can find it amidst all the other Unicode feedback here.

May 9-May 13, 2016

UTC Meeting #147 occurs. Here is the relevant section of the minutes:

E.1.5 Jurassic Emoji Proposal [Milan, L2/16-072]
E.1.5.1 Feedback on Jurassic Emoji Proposal [West, L2/16-103]
[147-A114] Action Item for Peter Edberg, Emoji Subcommittee: Consider proposal L2/16-072 (dinosaurs) as part of a larger set of animals being considered.
[147-A115] Action Item for Rick McGowan: Respond to William Overington.
[147-A116] Action Item for Peter Edberg, Emoji Subcommittee: Update the emoji selection factors to state that we are not looking for scientific or taxonomic/systematic classification and proposals should not suggest too many gradations.

Translation: The UTC is tentatively giving consideration to dinosaur emoji in some form.

May 22, 2016

Andrew West and Ken Lunde, who are both way more plugged into Unicode issues than I am, tweeted me about the dinosaur issue.

Andrew West ‏@BabelStone
@courtneymilan My understanding (and this is unofficial) is that the UTC want to encode only a single "representative" dinosaur emoji

Ken Lunde (小林剣) ‏The entire #DinosaurEmoji controversy is easily whittled down to a single Barnie-like #emoji.

Translation: We might get only one dinosaur!

May 24, 2016

Courtney Milan (still me, in case you were wondering) sends further feedback to the UTC suggesting that the number of dinosaur emoji should be greater than or equal to two, at a minimum.

Dear Unicode Technical Committee (and emoji subcommittee),

As the author of the original Jurassic Emoji proposal, L2/16072, I'm writing to provide further commentary on my dinosaur emoji proposal based on (a) the public feedback that the UTC has received from both William Overington and Andrew West, and (b) public comments from Andrew West and Ken Lunde suggesting that the UTC is considering encoding only a single representative dinosaur.

Overington's suggestion was that the UTC encode 32 dinosaurs (!!) according to scientific taxonomic classifications (!!!). This proposal appeals to my sense of humor and love of dinosaurs, but having the number of encoded dinosaur emoji exceed the number of living reptile emoji would be a suboptimal use of Unicode resources and would place a substantial burden on member-implementers to create emoji that will neither see much use nor provide important communication tools to the public. It would also set an unfortunate precedent for the UTC, lead to increasingly frivolous submissions, and distract from the UTC's substantial and important other commitments to representing languages.

My reaction to West's feedback was initially something like this: 😍😍😍 (three heart-eyes emoji, if this doesn't come through on this form). I am a fan of dinosaurs, particularly velociraptors. I would be utterly delighted to have a standalone velociraptor emoji. That being said, the distinctions made in West's proposal would be unlikely to be represented with any degree of accuracy from emoji implementation to emoji implementation. The mission of the UTC is not to encode everyone's favorite dinosaur. The differentiation suggested by West is delightful to my dinosaur-loving heart, but rationally, I cannot imagine that the difference between gallimmus and pachycephalosaurus would be apparent in the 5 millimeter version. Nor do I think that communication will be severely impeded by the lack of the gallimus.

My original proposal was for three dinosaurs, and I spent substantial time whittling down the set of dinosaurs to what I felt was a close-to-minimum set required for communication. Even though I am a massive fan of velociraptors (cannot overestimate how massive a fan I am), I specifically chose not to include both the T-Rex and the velociraptor in my proposal. The 5 millimeter emoji for one can be used to represent the other.

My choice of three dinosaurs was not based on scientific classification, but on projected communication and cultural meaning. Predatory dinosaurs occupy different cultural and emotional significance than non-armored herbivores, which occupy different representative space than armored dinosaurs. A single representative dinosaur could not be used to show a pack of velociraptors attacking a brontosaurus, because the emoji would not differentiate between predator and prey. All activities for which this stands in as an allegory—everything from revolutions to riots to internet mobs to journalists going after an easy target—would not be representable in a single-dinosaur emoji world. If all dinosaurs look alike, you can't tell that one of them is going after the other.

Collapsing all dinosaurs into a single Barney-like dinosaur is too much collapsing. This would make it impossible to represent dinosaur predator/prey interactions and to use them as a metaphor for the world in which we live.

At a very minimum, I believe that there should be representation for both herbivore and predator dinosaurs. I urge the UTC to consider more than one representative dinosaur: at least two (a representative predator and a representative herbivore), and possibly three.

Thank you again for your time and consideration,

Courtney Milan