The first emoji was created in 1998 or 1999 in Japan by Shigetaka Kurita, who was part of the NTT DoCoMo team responsible for the development of i-mode, a mobile Internet platform. The first set of 172 12×12 pixel emojis was created as part of i-mode's messaging features to facilitate electronic communication and function as a distinguishing feature of other services.
However, in 1997, Nicolas Loufrani noticed the growing use of ASCII text emoticons in mobile technology and started experimenting with animated smiley faces with the aim of creating colorful icons that correspond to the existing ASCII emoticons, made with simple signs scoring, perfecting them for a more interactive use on digital platforms. From these, Loufrani created the first graphic emoticons and compiled an online Emoticon Dictionary that was ordered by categories: classics, moods, flags, festivities, fun, sports, weather, animals, food, countries, professions, planets, zodiac and babies. These icons were first registered in 1997 with The United States Copyright Office and were later published as .gif files on the Internet in 1998, becoming the first graphic emoticons ever to be used on technological platforms. In 2000, the Emoticons Directory created by Loufrani was made available on the Internet for users to be able to transfer them to their mobile phones through the smileydictionary.com website, which included more than 1000 graphic smiley emoticons and the respective ASCII versions. This same directory was later published, in 2002, in a book by the publisher Marabout entitled Dico Smileys. In 2001, The Smiley Company began licensing the rights to Loufrani's graphic emoticons for use in mobile phone transfers by several telecommunications companies, including Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, SFR (Vodafone) and Sky Telemedia.
The Oxford Dictionary named "emoji" 😂 (Face With Tears of Joy) as "word of the year" in 2015.