Why Android Pie Won't Be Getting the Copyleft Symbol


Google is a company with nearly unlimited resources. It often chooses to use its power for the greater good of the Internet. Creating amazing projects like digitizing every printed book, bringing Internet access via high-altitude balloons, and offering high-quality language translation.

And sometimes it just gets bored and abandons them.

Google Noto is such a project. It is an attempt to create beautiful fonts for every single human language. It promises No ToFu - no more blank boxes where a character should be. A fantastic way to increase accessibility and diversity on the Web.

There has been no new release of Noto for nearly a year.

Unicode 11 was released a couple of months ago. So people have started asking where the new version of Noto is - when can we expect to see the Copyleft symbol and other characters? The official reply last month from the maintainers is:

The code point U+1F12F 🄯 COPYLEFT SYMBOL was added in Unicode 11. We are going through planning process to figure out when we will start supporting it (Noto includes up to Unicode 9, we need to get 10+ 11 done in the future).

Never mind 11, they're still working on 2017's Unicode 10!

Here's the experience on Android Pie - from the latest emulator image.
Wikipedia Copyleft page. The icon is a blank box.

Emoji

Oh, don't get me wrong, Android Pie will have plenty of snazzy new Emoji but, conveniently, the new emoji aren't in the latest Noto emoji release. Presumably Google doesn't want to share its toys with the rest of the class.

Lots of colourful emoji.

What's Going On?

It looks like Google has assigned 3-4 people to work on fonts.

That's not enough. They're doing great work - but are obviously hamstrung by a lack of resources.

Google is happy to take the positive press that comes with such largesse but seems curiously unwilling to actually commit sufficient money to complete the task.

Is this just too big a job for Google to handle? Unlikely. The GNU Unifont has released several updates for Unicode 11 - they're a volunteer effort who are beating the behemoth.

Am I Bitter?

Yes. Two years ago I worked hard to help get the IEC Power Symbol into Unicode. It was released as part of Unicode 9.0 in 2016.

Eventually, in 2017, they were released as part of Noto - but as far as I can tell, they've not been in any Android release since.

If Google cared about a modern font experience for Android, you should be able to see ⏻ ⏼ ⏽ ⭘ ⏾ on your Android device. Sadly, all you're likely to see is a set of blank boxes.

GitHub issue - the power symbols show as blank boxes.

Unicode 10 and 11 aren't just emoji. The newer versions contain 7,500 CJK unified ideographs, modern and ancient languages, mathematical symbols, currency symbols, and much more.

Suppose you want to type in Cyrillic. Here's what ᲀ - the small rounded ve - looks like on Android Pie:

A blank character instead of the correct character.

Google have stepped up to be the saviour of Unicode fonts - and they've half-arsed it. Meanwhile, Android doesn't even get full support for Unicode 9.

Unicode matters. It is a noble effort to record all of human written language. It opens up the Internet to billions of people who don't use the Latin alphabet. It constantly evolves and updates. It is the one method for unambiguous digital communication. It deserve to be spread far and wide. It needs to be supported everywhere.

But, sadly, Google doesn't give a ����.

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