With all due respect to the nation’s astronauts and the movie Apollo 13, Cupertino, we have a problem. Fragmentation is on the rise in every facet of life and it benefits no one. Sorry, it’s not Apple I’m worried about here. It’s everyone else. Every other tech company on planet earth seems to want to roll tech gadgets their own way which ends up creating utter confusion for modern humanity.
I’m talking emojis. And operating systems. And platforms. Is it any wonder that a growing number of humanity refuses to leave the confines of Cupertino’s tech giant? It’s a jungle out there. Every platform for itself, users be damned. One of the most recent examples of this go it alone philosophy comes with WhatsApp. Think Apple Messages but on other platforms.
Facebook spent about $20-billion to acquire WhatsApp because its user base was huge and growing fast; now up to almost 1-billion daily users of an app that’s free and does about everything. It runs on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and features end-to-end encryption (which means totalitarian countries like China and Russia don’t like its citizens using the app).
Facebook also has Messenger which does much the same thing as WhatsApp which does much the same thing as Apple’s Messages and a few dozen other instant messaging services scattered around planet earth.
Oh, and they all use emojis. Except WhatsApp now uses its own emojis instead of Apple’s built-in emojis. Instead of helping us to become better communicators, emojis do the opposite and help obfuscate communication between us. WhatsApp did what all good technology companies do. They copied Apple. In this case, Apple’s emojis. The similarities are more than striking. Apple could argue intellectual property theft but that would be a stretch because there is little about emoji that is intellectual in nature.
Fragmentation is everywhere and its killing humanity.
Google has Android. Samsung has Tizen. Apple has iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS (and you just know that when HomeKit becomes a hit, we’ll have HomePod and homeOS, amirite?). Microsoft has Windows. Linux has hundreds of different Linux distributions. Even Amazon has Fire OS (regrettably, tied to Android, the most recent from Nougat).
Supposedly, choice is a good thing. Too much choice is not. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and could not decide what to order because the menu had 127 different items? Choice is not always better, so when it comes to emoji, why are there so many choices? I can’t remember more than a dozen emoji and their meanings anyway (and most are variations of smiley face). Why would WhatsApp need their own emoji? Continuity. WhatsApp emoji look the same across all WhatsApp apps and users (ostensibly; I haven’t checked every platform, but the idea is sound). The problem, of course, is that WhatsApp is not the only messaging app used by iPhone or Android users, so we’re forced to figure out what those dumb-assed little icons mean. They don’t even have a common name.
Planet earth has reached an epidemic of fragmentation at every level; technology to politics, religion to food, gadgets to emojis, and inhabitants are not the better for it. Standards are created for a reason. Unity. Lets have a single standard for emoji. Let’s give each emoji a name. Let’s make them look the same across all platforms.
Fragmentation is not good for humans.