An emoji-only social network: Ridiculous … or brilliant?

With forthcoming app Emojli, even your username is an emoji VIDEO

Topics: Video, emoji, emojli, Social Media, Social Networks, innovation, tech, ridiculous, brilliant, ,

An emoji-only social network: Ridiculous ... <em>or brilliant?</em>

Have you heard of the latest Internet craze, Emojli?

Emojli, which was unveiled earlier this week by creators Matt Gray (no relation) and Tom Scott, will be an emoji-only social network. Yes, even usernames are really user icons. (Mine, for example, is a series of cat-related emojis. Should you be surprised? No.)

I’ll admit, when I first read about Emojli on Monday, I was a skeptic. I wasn’t among those who glommed on last month to Yo, the Silicon Valley darling that raised $1 million in funding despite only allowing users to say, you guessed it, “Yo.” So of course I took Emojli to be like a semi-ironic flash-in-the-pan proposition, just the latest practical joke making the “viral-sensation” rounds.

Scott and Gray must have anticipated this dubious reaction, and the two address it in their introduction video:

“We know what you’re thinking,” the guys state in the Emojli video. “This is satire. No one would actually make this thing.”

“It’s not. And we have,” they promptly respond.

Watching the video was enough to pique my interest: A combination of founder self-awareness and dry humor made Emojli somehow irresistible. I had so many questions; the most vexing of which was: Is Emojli ridiculous, or brilliant?

A cursory Google search only heightened my curiosity. So I did what anyone with burning questions about a not-yet-launched social network does. I reached out to the only contact information I had: Consequently, Scott and Gray have been very helpful and obliging to my deluge of questions. The correspondence is ongoing, but the takeaway thus far is this: Emojli, it turns out, is both joke and social network.

Emojli, Scott explains, spawned from humor. “It came out of two stories: comedy social network Yo, and the Unicode consortium’s new emojis,” Scott wrote. “The two of us had the idea at about the same time — we weren’t sold on it until we realized that usernames should be emoji too. At that point, we burst out laughing and realized we had to build it.”

“We both already have careers, and are doing this very much as a side project,” Gray said. “Generally with our projects, if one of us comes up with an idea that makes us laugh we generally go with it if it’s doable.”

What clinched it for me was that, unlike in Silicon Valley, which oftentimes takes itself way, way too seriously, Emojli isn’t trying to disrupt. It’s an inside joke turned into reality. As of Tuesday, they had 45,000 pre-registered users in on the joke and zero outside funding.

One concern I did have, coming off last month’s Yo security breach, was about privacy. I quickly learned that Gray and Scott are not technology novices. Gray works as a broadcast engineer at Global Radio, and Scott wears many tech-related hats — including giving talks about Internet security. (The two also make a series of YouTube videos.)

Other details are still being ironed out. I was curious how people will find each other if they’re only represented by emojis. Will users memorize their friends’ emoticon combinations?

“The current plan is that as part of completing signup, users will be able to provide their name to help identify themselves,” Gray wrote.

“That’s his current plan,” Scott countered. “I reckon that people are happy to memorize usernames — emoji are just the same! We reckon it’ll be surprising how quickly ‘Sally’ will get linked to ‘[emoji]‘! We’ll see how this plays out as we test it.”

There’s also the matter of how to support a site that already has 45,000 users.

“For the last few years, I’ve been building fairly large-scale Web stuff — I’m one of the team behind UsVsTh3m, which has coped with tens of thousands of simultaneous users at peak times,” Scott writes. “I’ve had million-hits-a-day stuff work without a hitch before: This shouldn’t be an insurmountable challenge!”

Besides being a spam-free, troll-less Internet environment the two have other motives with Emojli: creativity.

“I find emoji force you take a look on the brighter side,” Gray wrote. “Artists sometimes use limits to help expand their creativity, so who knows what our users might come up with when limited to just emoji!”

The site will be launched in late July or early August.

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.


    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows


Loading Comments...