What happens if you search the web for the Unicode character “☺”?
On the one hand, it’s a symbol just like the letter A or the punctuation mark “!” – on the other, it contains semantic meaning. A smiling, happy face.
I decided to look at a few popular search engines to see what they’d return.
First up, a surprisingly poor entry from Google.
The site at the top by Tim Whitlock is fine – but it’s hardly an authoritative site. The rest appear to be random sites with the character in the URL.
Remember Dogpile? One of the first meta-search engines.
The first couple of results are quite good for programmers – the rest seem a little random, with a duplicate thrown in for good measure.
Good old Ask Jeeves.
Proving once again why no one uses them!
Finally, Yandex – the Russian giant.
That translates to “Syntax Error”!
None of the major social networks can cope with a smiley…
There are two issues at play here. Firstly, Emoticons have been in Unicode since 2010 and the Smiley Face since the original version of Unicode in 1991! That’s more than enough time for search engine designers to get used to the fact that people will search for a multitude of characters and glyphs. Come on programmers, get your ? together!
Secondly, what does ☺ mean? If I search for “dog” is that the same as searching for “?“? The purpose of many Emoji is to convey emotion – Twitter’s advanced search allows you to query by the emotional context of a tweet. Should we be using these extra characters just as modifiers for our existing text?
It seems that the written word is an inadequate medium with which to express the human experience, he sighed dramatically.