Apple's End Around Emoji

'Genmoji' sound fun, and perhaps devilishly clever 😈
Apple Explains How iOS 18 Genmoji Work
One of the Apple Intelligence features coming in iOS 18 is Genmoji, which will allow iPhone users to use AI to generate all-new emoji characters…

I had been wondering exactly how Apple's new "Genmoji" would work since, of course, emoji are not actually images, but are text in Unicode. Given that Genmoji clearly wouldn't be a part of the Unicode Consortium, which is the body that adds new emoji each year, Apple clearly had to think outside the box here:

As it turns out, Apple has designed an NSAdaptiveImageGlyph API for Genmoji and also other images like stickers and Memoji, and this API makes them behave like emoji. It is powered by a standard image format in a square aspect ratio with support for multiple resolutions, and it is augmented with metadata. This setup means that Genmoji and other content using NSAdaptiveImageGlyph can be used with and formatted alongside regular text, similar to emoji.

Genmoji can be used alone, copied, pasted, and sent as stickers. They can be used inline with text, and they respect line height and text formatting. Anywhere that can support rich text can support Genmoji, according to Apple.

I'm sort of reminded of iMessage itself. It was created by Apple to look like and work alongside SMS, but it wasn't technically SMS. And while the above notes that anywhere that supports rich text should be able to support Genmoji, I believe that's out-of-the-box only on Apple devices – at least for now. In other words, it really may be like iMessage in that it will be a feature that in order to use, you need an Apple product.

It sounds like if you send them to a non-Apple device, or place them in a non-rich-text area, they may just render as a description of the image. That will be a fun new "green bubble".

"Hi Jack, how are you today, watch out for <a shark with a laser beam on its head wearing a mustache riding a donkey>!"

That said, the actual developer session indicates that Apple has created a way to display Genmoji on the web, basically as small images. Their solution is (obviously) built for WebKit, but it seems like other engines should be able to do the same thing. And that should mean that Android and other devices should be able to add some code to render the Genmoji too, but it will take work on their end.

So the new "green bubbles" may just be temporary! Though we'll see how fast other services are to adapt Apple's product here, which they, of course can't control. Google has had their own "Emoji Kitchen" for a few years now, but the implementation is different. Perhaps there's a way to make them compatible with the rendering of Genmoji, but it's hard to see the two sides playing too nicely here since, of course, Apple will limit the creation of Genmoji to Apple devices as they're a part of "Apple Intelligence".

And yes, this creation play would naturally push to non-Apple users the idea of getting an iPhone (or iPad or Mac) to join in on the fun. And I fully expect this feature to be a lot of fun. Clever. Sneaky. Apple.

And you have to wonder how the Unicode Consortium feels about this end around actual emoji...