By John Gruber
Tara AI — Build better software, faster
Apple: Don’t change the pistol emoji. At least not today.
Unicode does not deprecate emojis, but there is no requirement to show all approved emojis on the keyboard.
The pistol emoji could be removed from the iOS emoji keyboard without causing any cross platform compatibility issues.
His argument against changing it to a toy water pistol is that it would convey extremely different meanings on different platforms.
Rather than recycle the same character code point, here’s what I think Apple should have done. Remove the pistol emoji from Apple’s keyboard completely. Lobby the Unicode consortium to add a new emoji that depicts a ‘water pistol toy’ and include that in the keyboard.
This handling is better because it does not affect usage of the handgun emoji on other clients, Apple would just be disabling the ability to write it on its systems. The water gun emoji would then be true to itself with a unique code, a consistent depiction of a toy water pistol across all platforms that support the latest Unicode standard and the correct labelling for VoiceOver accessibility.
This is a tricky dilemma, but I think it’ll all work out, and other vendors will follow Apple’s lead and this glyph will be represented by a toy gun everywhere within a few years. Hiding the pistol from the emoji keyboard is timid. Changing it to a toy is a statement, indicating that Apple wants no part of the gun culture here in the U.S. I support Apple changing this glyph to a toy — but if they do otherwise, they should drop the glyph completely, and display the “missing glyph” box for the pistol’s code point. (Ironically, Microsoft switched Windows’s pistol emoji from a toy ray gun to a realistic revolver just this week. Microsoft just can’t catch a break lately — even when they’re ahead of the curve they find a way to fall behind.)
While I’m on it, I’ve heard from a little birdie that Apple’s new water pistol glyph was in fact changed from left-pointing to right-pointing, but only in internal-to-Apple builds of iOS. The idea was to make the water pistol pair well with the “splashing sweat” symbol (💦), which to date has been rendered left-to-right. But because flipping the gun direction changes the meaning when it’s paired with any other emoji to its left, it was decided that it would be easier to flip the direction of the splashing emoji and leave the pistol left-pointing. If Apple does change the splash direction, it will also pair better with the much-beloved eggplant (🍆).