January 30, 2019

In 2018 when Google released a major update to its Gmail product, support for animated emojis was removed. However, Unicode symbols are becoming the norm for email marketers looking to add extra flair to their subject lines.

The first time I saw animated emojis in Gmail was when I received an email with several flashing 5-pointed animated stars in the subject. It caught my eye, then I read "Find the newest deals on…" and my brain immediately stopped reading while I got ready to cast the message into the bin. But I thought to myself, how exactly did this company manage to get animated glyphs into my inbox?

This question turned into somewhat of an obsession. I kept thinking of all the ways you could use (and abuse) this new ability, making email titles that resemble strings of Christmas lights or creating emoji-based memes. I quickly learned that these glyphs couldn't just be copied and pasted into GMail, they are created through custom snippets of code that you put into the subject field of a new email. Finally, after a few hours of research and testing, I came upon a website that explained how you could generate these codes.

There were cute monkey faces, explosions, and even the poop emoji. Many of the available icons were even animated. After I got the hang of generating them, I immediately knew what I had to do. I made a script that would send 10 emails in a row; each email would have a subject packed with these flashing animated icons and arranged in such a way, that when you would see all of the emails neatly stacked in your inbox, a giant smiley face would be made out red and yellow flashing stars. This would be great, I thought, for pranking my friends' inboxes. So, naturally I input my best friend's email address and gave him a nice wall of emoji-spam. Though this new ability thoroughly entertained me, I found it to only be useful for personal emails. This was until the culture of email subjects began changing.

Around 2014, I remember seeing more and more emojis used in email subject lines. A new album would come out, and I would see "🔥🎵 Check out the newest tracks by…" in my inbox. Now, many tech-savvy companies use emojis to lighten-up otherwise drab email subjects. If an order gets shipped you could use a check mark ✔️. If it gets delayed, you may use a warning symbol ⚠️. If you are asking a client to fill out a survey, why not throw in the classic smiley face 😃.

In 2018, I was surprised to find out that Google has dropped support of its proprietary email subject Emoticons and instead improved the way it handles standardized Unicode emojis. Since the major Gmail update, all the old custom Google emojis now turn into something similar to the infamous "unable to display this character" symbol, �. I just hope that this isn't the end for all the pinchy crabs, confetti poppers, and flashing stars.