Gmail Enters the Emoticon Wars, Inevitably

By  |  Friday, October 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

STOP THE PRESSES! The big news in tech this morning is that Gmail has introduced a feature I’m surprised it didn’t have already: emoticons. Lots and lots of emoticons. In two styles: squarish-headed and roundy-headed.

Here they are:

That’s a total of 148 emoticons, some of which are animated. (And yes, the last one in each set is…er, a pile of crap: I didn’t know that Google had a slightly off-color sense of humor, and I’m not sure if I’d want to be presented with that emoticon each time I wanted to insert a simply smiley, frowny, kissy, or weepy into my e-mail.)

Gmail’s foray into raw emotion ranks high on sheer quantity of options, but they’re kind of teeny-tiny. Maybe my eyeballs are just getting old, but I have trouble making out the intended emotion in some of them.

Anyhow, Google has tackled emoticons with a fair amount of gusto, but it’s done so late in the game. Yahoo Mail already has forty of ’em:

And Hotmail has sixty, including the all-important Slice of Pizza:

But when it comes to emoticons, nobody, including Gmail. competes with the terrifying Incredimail. It has…thousands…of…them. High-resolution, animated ones. Including an emoticon with Rio’s statue of Jesus, an emoticon with Pippi Longstocking hair, an emoticon being kissed by a turtle, and–most disturbing, at least to me–a Marilyn Monroe emoticon with billowing skirts. (No other e-mail service that I know of offers emoticons wearing any kind of skirt.)

Here’s a tiny, tiny fraction of what Incredimail has to offer:

Random side note: My favorite emoticons–maybe the only ones I wholeheartedly like–are the first ones I ever encountered: BIXies, which Joanne Dow invented on the BIX online service way back in the 1980s. They were ASCII-based but didn’t require you to tilt your head to read them, and they worked anywhere and everywhere you might want to use them. And to me, at least, they feel more expressive than most emoticons that involve lots of color and pixels and animation.

I can’t find a comprehensive guide to BIXies on the Web–which is the Web’s loss–but here are a few:


You just can’t beat BIXies–if any modern e-mail client builds them in, I’m there…


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3 Comments For This Post

  1. Carl K Says:


  2. MJ Valente Says:

    On BIXies, make a search on Japanese smileys. They are very similar.

  3. Ben2K Says:

    Google needs to offer either a mouseover feature to show the emoticon’s name, or someone should post a guide for the emoticon-impaired so that we can figure them out.