Apple has invented a mysterious new emoji --  this is what it looks like

There’s an emoji mystery afoot.

Jeremy Burge, the creator of emoji reference site Emojipedia, has noticed on his blog that Apple has added a mysterious new emoji to a beta version of its OS X operating system.

It’s a black speech bubble, with a white eye in the centre.

What’s the big deal, right? New emoji are added all the time.

Well, what distinguishes this from others is that it wasn’t created by the Unicode Authority. That is the organisation that creates new emoji. It ensures compatibility between different platforms, so Google doesn’t create new emoji unilaterally that can’t be understood by people on Apple or Microsoft devices, and so on.

There is a new batch of emoji due in iOS 9.1. But the “eye in speech bubble” isn’t one of them.

Here’s how it looks:

The emoji is created using a “Zero Width Joiner” to combine two existing emoji into a new emoji. Burge points out that Apple already uses such a method for same-sex family emoji — but “the difference between the use of ZWJs here is that the family emojis are well documented by Unicode. By comparison, the eye in speech bubble emoji has not been suggested or recommended by Unicode, nor have I seen any mention of it prior to this update.”

In short, Burge — an emoji expert — doesn’t know what it’s for. We don’t either. We reached out to Apple but the company was unresponsive.

A Reddit thread is discussing the new emoji, and its possibilities. One suggestion is that it will be used as a kind of icon for one of Apple’s messaging products, like iMessage. But Apple doesn’t have logo emoji for any of its other products, so it’s not clear why it’s creating one now. Another suggestion is that it will be used as a “seen” icon to signify a message has been read — but again, there’s no reason this would need to be an emoji. There are plenty of other ways to render it.

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