The Unicode Consortium relies heavily on the efforts of volunteers. “Under the current circumstances we’ve heard that our contributors have a lot on their plates at the moment and decided it was in the best interests of our volunteers and the organizations that depend on the standard to push out our release date,” said Mark Davis, President of the Consortium. “This year we simply can’t commit to the same schedule we’ve adhered to in the past.”
ICU and CLDR to stay on schedule
The two other main Unicode projects, ICU and CLDR, are maintaining their 6-month cycles for releases in the spring and fall, although the feature sets this year may be lighter. The CLDR project supplies language- and locale-specific data and specifications, while the ICU project supplies internationalization code libraries that allow operating systems and applications to use Unicode and CLDR data and specifications. These projects are impacted less by current conditions since they have always operated via virtual meetings and are more compartmentalized, meaning that it is easier to withhold a particular feature if it falls behind schedule without jeopardizing the whole release. Sub-projects of CLDR and ICU, such as the CLDR Message Formatting project, will also be little affected.
This announcement does not affect the new emoji included in Unicode Standard version 13.0 announced on March 10, 2020.
Because of the lead time for developers to incorporate emoji into mobile phones, emoji that are finalized in January don’t appear on phones until the following September or so. For example, the emoji that were included in Release 13.0 in March 2020 won’t generally be on phones until the fall of 2020. With the delay of the release of Unicode 14.0, the deadline for submission of new emoji character proposals for Emoji 14.0 is also being postponed until September 2020.
The Consortium is considering whether it is feasible to release emoji sequences in an Emoji 13.1 release. These sequences make use of existing characters. An example from Emoji 13.0 is the black cat, which is internally a combination of the cat emoji and black large square emoji. Since sequences rely only on combinations of existing characters in the Unicode Standard, they can be implemented on a separate schedule, and don’t require a new version of Unicode or the encoding of new characters. Such an Emoji 13.1 release would be in time for release on mobile phones in 2021.
The Emoji Subcommittee will be accepting new emoji character proposals for Emoji 14.0 from June 15, 2020 until September 1, 2020. Any new emoji characters incorporated into Emoji 14.0 would appear on phones and other devices in 2022.
Over 140,000 characters are available for adoption to help the Unicode Consortium’s work on digitally disadvantaged languages