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Apple won't approve apps that use emojis that aren't provided by the keyboard (twitter.com)
65 points by JamieF1 10 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments



It seemed later in the week that this got turned around: https://twitter.com/Sam0711er/status/961312320537415681


The practical upshot of such a policy would be everyone shipping their own fonts instead of using Apple's system fonts, just to be safe. This would be nothing but trouble - bloated app sizes, more ram pressure, uneven look and feel, and diminished influence on Unicode.

A now-deleted tweet by a different developer facing the same issue stated that Apple apparently clarified by saying that using emoji as "media" was forbidden, but "content" was okay. Whatever that means.

Between this and the gun/water pistol thing, it really seems like Apple thinks of Unicode as their personal playground, and simply do not think through the network effects of their policies at all.


IIRC the general thrust of Apple's problems with the app in the now-deleted tweet was "hey you are filling a quarter of the screen with a giant emoji, they are only to be used as little images inline with text, they are not your own personal clip-art library".


> using emoji as "media" was forbidden, but "content" was okay. Whatever that means

From what I read other places, it meant that if it was non-variable and shipped with the app (UI, app data, etc) then it was "media" and not ok. If it was user supplied (like a text message), externally loaded (web page), etc... then it was "content" and ok.


So if a users presses a button that says "Do X":

Then the app sends a request to a server to do X and based on the response looks up the text that shipped with the app saying "X completed successfully" which it displays using the system font, that is fine.

Then the app sends a request to a server to do X and the server sends back the text "X completed successfully <smiley-face-character>" and the app displays it using the system font, that is fine.

Then the app sends a request to a server to do X and based on the response looks up the text that shipped with the app saying "X completed successfully <smiley-face-character>" which it displays using the system font, that is against the rules.

That seems incredibly arbitrary and nonsensical if that is an accurate description of the rule.


The minor use that occurred to me is Slack's "You're all up to date :tada:" when you pull up at the bottom of a channel to load new messages.

Another link was posted suggesting that Apple's reversed this stance. If not for that, would Apple have been making Slack get rid of the party popper because the user didn't type it? It sounds like yes.


>Apple thinks of Unicode as their personal playground

Apple has thought of Earth as their personal playground for a long time; arrogance runs deep in their company culture. Steve could get away with it because he was arrogant and right most of the time. Today, ancient & obsolete arrogance is Apple’s biggest flaw, and is causing them to drift more and more out of touch with reality.


Apple seems to avoid interoperability wherever they think they can get away with it.

Even in really weird ways, like: to install any software on your Apple phone you had to use Apple's music player. (Is that right? I never owned one, and it sounds daft, but plausible for Apple.)

Text and video messaging was low-hanging fruit, thanks to XMPP etc not taking off. With that network effect in place, it's a short leap towards a subtly-incompatible text format, so buying Apple's stuff becomes the path of slightly less resistance.

I don't know whether this is an aggressive strategy; or whether they care only about their customers' satisfaction and not at all about interoperability.


> to install any software on your Apple phone you had to use Apple's music player

Uh...no? Not sure where you got that from.


You sound pretty arrogant yourself, is it generational?


Apple's Emoji designs are copyrighted to Apple. The unicode standard only defines character codes, and what they should "generally" look like (hell, Unicode's own example designs are monochrome line drawings). So this makes complete sense. If people started using Apple's logos on the App's UI, they would respond in exactly the same way.

And if they're so invested in using emojis as a "key marketing strategy", why didn't they pay an artist to create emojis for their own use?


IMO you’ve been unfairly downvoted, as you’re correct that the emoji illustrations indeed are owned by Apple.

The fault lies with the Unicode consortium for opening this can of worms. The standard should have been reserved for outline letter forms only. Adding a set of full-color illustrations that expands every year was madness.

It’s especially bad for embedded devices that need to render text. It used to be that you could ship vector fonts for the major global scripts in less than 500k, and you could feel fairly confident that new glyphs aren’t randomly added.

Today you need to ship an emoji font and make sure that your font engine can render color graphics. Google offers the only semi-decent free color emoji font, and it weighs about 7 MB. That’s a vexing increase in system font footprint just so that there’s a poop illustration on disk when needed. You also need to update the set every year when the standard adds “depressed poop” or “sulking lizardman” or whatever.

From a UX point of view, it sucks because the free emoji font doesn’t look like the Apple one (because that look is copyrighted!), and inevitably someone will complain about it.

At least HN has the good sense to filter the emoji junk from comments.


> Today you need to ship an emoji font and make sure that your font engine can render color graphics.

It seems like it goes even deeper than that. I've been noticing things like <face><unicode female symbol> that I thought was some sort of meme that I just didn't get. It turns out, that's how "older devices" (the latest version of Chrome in my case) renders the new emoji that you can attach a gender to.

I agree that it all kind of went off the deep end. You can easily come up with an infinite number of pictures that you might want to attach to a text message, but there aren't an infinite number of codepoints. So the race to add emoji will never end, and it will never be possibly to satisfy everyone. I would have just given up. At least I can include a picture of a tanabata tree with any and all text!


I agree with you in the level that inevitably Emoji are expected to be supported as much as any other script, which is a big technical problem.

At the same time, a very basic vector implementation of emoji shouldn't be too large, I suppose? Considering all modern fonts are also vector based, an emoji version will only need extra color information.


> IMO you’ve been unfairly downvoted, as you’re correct that the emoji illustrations indeed are owned by Apple.

The downvotes are entirely fair. Of course Apple has the legal right to arbitrarily block devs from using parts of Apple's own system fonts; that doesn't mean it's not stupid for them to exercise that right.


> Apple's Emoji designs are copyrighted to Apple.

They aren't copying the emoji, though, except in the extremely pedantic sense that some transient copies get created in the process of the device displaying the fonts that it shipped with, but that is obvious fair use even under the most restrictive interpretation of fair use.

Copyright has no bearing on this.

> If people started using Apple's logos on the App's UI, they would respond in exactly the same way.

That's a trademark issue. Apple's logo is an Apple trademark. It strains credulity to imagine that every emoji that ships with an iPhone is an Apple trademark. No reasonable consumer would see an Apple smiley face emoji in isolation and think "Oh, that's an Apple smiley face emoji not a Microsoft smiley face emoji, so that product must be made by Apple". Trademark only applies when there is a reasonable possibility of marketplace confusion.

> And if they're so invested in using emojis as a "key marketing strategy", why didn't they pay an artist to create emojis for their own use?

Pretty much every company uses some combination of characters as a key marketing strategy (the company or product name). Do they need to create their own font to be able to display their name?

Obviously Apple can make its own rules and doesn't have to justify them, but I have a very hard time interpreting this rule in any way that isn't extremely arbitrary and nonsensical.


> Pretty much every company uses some combination of characters as a key marketing strategy (the company or product name). Do they need to create their own font to be able to display their name?

No, but they do have to use a font with a license that permits you to do so. You can't just type your company name in Helvetica and go with it, Linotype will want to have a fee. (often a one-time non-recurring payment)


I don't need to have a license to display my company's name in a system font on the user's OS. The user needs to have a license to the font to be able to have it installed in their OS.

If I was shipping the font with my app, then I would need a license to the font.


I was talking about logos, sorry for the confusion. Of course you do not need a license to use the system font on a particular system.

But I think that arguing that now we can't use San Francisco font on iOS for anything is a good example of a slippery slope fallacy. I think Apple's move on the emoji usage is a mistake and I suppose they will backpedal on this. However I do think that it is not comparable.


Apple also owns the copyright on their San Fransisco font, but you don't see them blocking approval on apps for having text in the UI. The Roman alphabet only defines what letters should "generally" look like, so it would make sense.

You want graphical representations of letters? Bring your own. Those ones are Apple's.


At least in the US, fonts can not by copyrighted [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_property_protecti...


"the shapes of typefaces are not copyrightable, though the shapes may be protected by design patent ... A font (the computer code used to display the typeface) may be protected as copyright"

So practically, they are copyrighted. Are you going to redesign the TrueType font from scratch?


I suppose they're not violating that, since apps aren't distributing the font file.

To whatever degree that apples to San Francisco, does it not also apply to Apple Color Emoji.ttc though?

Or does the "font shapes not copyrightable" rule not apply to fonts that have more to them than monochrome shapes?


It's Apple's playground and they can enforce whatever idiotic rules they want, but I don't see how using their emoji font is any different from any other font they provide. IP rules aren't a justification for it.

All the justification they need is "We're in charge and we reserve the right to be arbitrary and capricious with app approval," but that doesn't mean I like it.


If you render the shapes to a bitmap, you own the compete copyright to that bitmap.


Emoji are images, not letters. You can’t copyright letter shapes, but you can copyright images.


From the wikipedia link in sibling comment:

> The 1976 House Report states: A "typeface" can be defined as a set of letters, numbers, or other symbolic characters, whose forms are related by repeating design elements consistently applied in a notational system, and are intended to be embodied in articles whose intrinsic utilitarian function is for use in composing text or other cognizable combinations of characters. The Committee does not regard the design of typeface, as thus defined, to be a copyrightable "pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work" within the meaning of this bill and the application of the dividing line in section 101 [H.R. Reg. No. 1476, 94th Cong., 2nd Sess 5 (1976)].

Emoji might not be "text," but would you consider them to be used for "composing other cognizable combinations of characters"?

They're definitely cognizable, and the original proposal to add them to Unicode straight up calls them "characters" repeatedly.

> The proposal for encoding of Emoji symbols as Unicode characters covers the Emoji symbols that are in widespread use by DoCoMo, KDDI and Softbank for their mobile phone networks. These symbols are encoded in carrier-specific versions of Shift-JIS (as User-Defined Characters), and, in the case of KDDI, in a carrier-specific version of ISO-2022-JP. There are mapping tables in use in the industry between these character sets, with both roundtrip and fallback mappings. These symbols are also supported in web mail services by Yahoo! Mail and Google Mail. (Yahoo! Mail currently supports a subset.) (The original proposal also included nine symbols defined by Google, but they were withdrawn from later versions.)

https://sites.google.com/site/unicodesymbols/Home/emoji-symb...

But maybe given characters in a font that were more pictorial in nature, the House Report would have had something else to say about it. Who knows?

Another question in there is the first part, are the forms related by repeating design elements consistently applied in a notational system? Maybe not? The sets of smilies in each company's emoji font totally are, but other items like poop are not.

Anyway, I took a quick look for any legal opinions on the copyright of emoji sets and didn't come up with much. I wouldn't be surprised if they're copyrightable, unlike the text portions of fonts, but it's pretty disappointing if the expressions of these common communicative symbols are locked up behind copyright.


> Means if your app displays emoji anywhere without a user having it typed in, it’s illegal and will be rejected.

How does that work in a chat app, when the remote user has typed that in on their device?


The distinction is whether you are using the emoji as a UX asset or simply displaying it as part of the interaction between user and app.

User enters emoji in their secret diary: great. You allow selection of mood for today by displaying a range of emoji faces: bad


So Facebook can't use the thumbs up emoji as a button label any more?

Or is that OK because it's an "image", not an "emoji", despite carrying the exact same meaning as the emoji, and looking indistinguishable from a rendering of the emoji?

Or is it OK if they bring their own image file? What if they bring their own emoji font and use that, to improve rendering speed?


Presumably a remote user is still a user.

My inner rules lawyer does note that this could pose a problem for any bot that emits emoji...


A bot user is still a user. Maybe.


Your key takeaway: System fonts may no longer be used in your iOS application without checking with Apple first.


What's the rationale behind this? Also, can someone explain me why Slack forces Google-themed emojis? I personally like the Windows design with black stroke


It seems like a good idea to prevent any sort of ambiguity about what "emoji" means.

These types of apps seem like an incredibly bad idea, because they are diluting what is supposed to be a 100% universal emoticon standard.


One possible reason is for accessibility (VoiceOver) and i18n.


That doesn't make sense. It's a unicode code point, after all, the rendering is immaterial.


You can change the type of emoji Slack uses.



What prompted this? Is there some Apple rule that you can not use a custom font for the emoji keypoints? If so, combined with the "no apple emoji" in interface rule, then it is a real bummer.


>We’ll therefore have to remove all emojis from @getBittracker and resubmit a new version. This will remove the “young” feeling in the app and basically destroys one of our key marketing strategies.

good.


Can someone give some more context for this? What exactly did they do?


Sadly, Apple can do whatever it wants. I can't imagine what can change Apple's mind when it comes to stupid App policies. Truly frustrating.




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