There aren't that many "characters" you use on a regular basis, not much more than what's on a laptop keyboard, but even then there's probably a few extra. But there's over 100,000 characters in the unicode standard currently.

My question is why they are actually characters, which are mapped to fonts. I don't understand why they are not just "items" that you select from a dropdown like on the iPhone. This way they could be completely customizable and wouldn't be so limited/static. Not even just talking about the completely graphic-esque ones like the animal unicodes. Even things like diacritics could be something from a dropdown rather than a complicated hidden keyboard combo invoking a font glyph.

Basically wondering, from a more UX perspective, what may be the reasoning behind having so many statically defined, yet complicated, font characters, rather than just having them be "icons" broadly, that don't map to key codes.

  • 1
    Not everyone on Earth speaks English or uses the Latin alphabet. Jan 13, 2019 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


Because unicode is not a font, but

an international encoding standard for use with different languages and scripts, by which each letter, digit, or symbol is assigned a unique numeric value that applies across different platforms and programs.

In other words: any sign, symbol or character in absolutely any existing language, pseudo-language, dialect or metalanguage. This applies to any entity, including emojis. Also, once a slot has been assigned, it will never change.

The list includes (but is not limited to) the following ones:

  • Writing systems and Punctuation
  • Europe-I
  • Europe-II
  • Middle East-I
  • Middle East-II
  • Cuneiform and Hieroglyphs
  • South and Central Asia-I
  • South and Central Asia-II
  • South and Central Asia-III
  • South and Central Asia-IV
  • Southeast Asia
  • Indonesia and Oceania
  • East Asia
  • Africa
  • Americas
  • Notational Systems
  • Symbols
  • Special Areas and Format Characters

Thus, what you're talking would apply to a font with a limited (and even dynamic) character set. This set of characters will be formed by a given number of unicode slots. If the slot is not assigned or mapped, it won't display anything, or if the font has a .notdef glyph defined, it will display a vertical rectangle (▯, unicode U+25AF) or a question mark (�, unicode U+FFFD ) or a square (□, U+25AF). However, it will depend on the font designer, and sometimes .notdef will render as just a space.

In short

Unicode includes all those symbols because it has to, otherwise character assignment would be completely random and anarchic. And the number will never decrease, it will only grow up

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