Can you write a best-seller using only emoji?

A new service converts any URL to emoji — will books be far behind? (And do we Red Dancer this news or Cry Face?)

Published July 10, 2015 6:54PM (EDT)

The other night I responded to a friend on Twitter who wrote that he thinks entire books will be written in emoji in the not-so-distant future. It’s such a sad thought. I value reading those sentences (with words) two or three times that are are so beautiful and complex they require special attention.

While I send the occasional emoji here and there — usually the girl in the red dress — I’ve never quite understood emoji obsession. Yes, the colorful symbols are cute. Okay, they’re fun sometimes, but I always thought surely we’re more evolved than using modern hieroglyphs to communicate. Clearly I’m way behind the times, because URLs can now be written and accessed using emoji. Insert surprised face with hands on cheeks and mouth agape.

Much like, the service that converts URLs into smaller links, linkmoji transforms web addresses into emoji form.

Links as emoji are likely to catch on. First of all, people love them — and I have to admit the pizza and smiling poo in the service’s own linkmoji is kind of cute. But there’s also some major talent behind it. Facebook product designer George Kedenburg III and Eric Nakagawa, who founded “I Can Haz Cheeseburger,” joined forces to create linkmoji, which launched on Wednesday.

The service joins the growing trend of communicating via characters that has become more prevalent even in media. Just the other day I received a press release written in emoji that I thought had to be a joke. Turned out it wasn’t, but it took me three or four reads to understand the message -- not unlike beautifully written sentences, I guess.

As emoji use becomes more and more commonplace, I'm curious about how tone will be affected. When I responded to my friend’s tweet about books and emoji, I relied on diction for the first reply. It felt natural. As the Twitter conversation progressed, my friend began using emoji and I followed suit. The final tweet was from me, using only emoji. I wanted to convey my love and admiration for books and the written word. No joke, it took me three tries before I decided on a series I thought symbolized what I was trying to get across: praying hands, book, and pink heart.

The order seemed about right, though I questioned placing the book first since it was the subject, and traditional syntax favors subject-object-verb. Then I decided I was looking too much into it -- it’s emoji!

I realized how complicated communication has become, despite — or because of — technological advantages. It happens in text exchanges all the time, especially when it comes to flirting. Is that smile smug? Is he being suggestive or dismissive? Earlier this year, the New York Times wrote about the growing trend, questioning whether grown men should use emoji at all.  My immediate answer is absolutely not, but that’s beside the point. Linguist John McWhorter said that men tend to shy away from emoji use anyway,  because of how often women practice communicating with them.

But women often set language trends. What was once thought to be a particularly feminine way of communicating has evolved into a form that’s widely accepted, albeit silly. Linkmoji's just the next logical step — books that open with the smiling cry face might not be far behind.

Linkmoji are currently automatically generated, but users will soon be able to customize their own emoji URLs. I’m curious to see which symbols different companies choose to represent themselves. For now, I’ll scroll through my keyboard for an ellipsis emoji.

By Erin Coulehan

Erin Coulehan is a freelance journalist with work in Rolling Stone, Elle, Slate and others. Follow her on Twitter @miss_coulehan

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Books Emoji Social Media Texting Twitter