Twitter’s approach to the problem of emoji provides a classic case study in open source best practice:
Many different applications have looked at the success of emoji and the various rights problems associated with the use of existing images and decided that the best work around was either to ignore the rights issues and reuse existing materials anyway or to create whole new image libraries which they would then have control over. Twitter on the other hand, has taken a different, more open approach.
After commissioning a new set of emoji graphics, the company implemented a library for parsing emoji tags and replacing them with read-to-render code strings for various platforms, including HTML. Now there are hundreds of emoji available to add to your tweets. Internally, the project was treated as open source from the off, with GitHub being used as the development repository. Now, both the code and the graphics of the project have been open sourced, using the MIT license for the code and CC-BY for the graphics.
Twitter has successfully managed to implement a feature essential for its global market, get it maintained in conjunction with others, and win broad credit. In order to learn from and repeat their success, its worth looking in a little more detail at how they achieved this: check out Simon’s InfoWorld article “Twitter emoji: 5 lessons for effective open source.”