the history of emoticons & emoji

In 1997, the world was in the midst of a technological revolution. Text messaging and email were moving to the forefront of communication and people were using expressive emotions made from punctuation marks (ascii emoticons). Hundreds of these had been created as an art form, but only :) and :( were really understandable and being used. It was then that Nicolas Loufrani (Smiley CEO) started experimenting with Smileys to create animated faces that corresponded to the emoticons made from plain punctuation marks. They became enhanced for more interactive use in digital, creating the world’s first graphical emoticons or emojis as they have now become affectionately known.

  • Emoticons in Puck magazine

    On the 30th of March 1881 emoticons are published in American satirical magazine Puck. These four emoticons are described as typographical art and represent melancholy, indifference, astonishment and joy.

  • Emoticons drawing guide

    In the 1940's journalist Paul Hadley showcases how to draw on a typewriter. Paul's article titled 'Keyboard Art' was published in 1948 and offered a masterclass in how to draw your own emoticon.

  • Emoticons in Mad magazine

    In 1962 American humour publication MAD Magazine publishes an article featuring typewriter-generated artwork "Typewri-toons.” The article featured artwork generated by a typewriter which expressed emotions.

  • Emoticons go online

    Scott Fahlman is credited with creating the first Ascii emoticon used for internet communications and set the rules for their usage, which he thought would help people on a message board at Carnegie Mellon on September 19th, 1982 to distinguish serious posts from jokes. 

  • First graphical emoticons

    In 1997, Nicolas Loufrani starts to create icons based on Smiley to replace the popular 'text emoticons' made solely of punctuation marks. From these world’s first graphical emoticons and 3D Smileys Loufrani publishes an online dictionary of emoticons translated against the pre-existing emoticons made of punctuation marks.

  • Emoticons go mobile

    In 2000 Smiley makes its emoticon directory available for download on mobile phones and launches the first email emoticon service offering 1000s of emoticons for free. The Japanese start using the word emoji, which is their translation for emoticon.

  • Emoticons and Emoji growth

    By 2015 billions of emoticons are being sent daily across a variety of mobile devices and social media platforms. Emoticon soon becomes the fastest growing and most widely used language on earth and people start referring to them using their Japanese translation: emoji.

Browse emoticons & emoji

Welcome to the directory of Smiley emoticons. As you can see, we have loads of great emoticons to choose from. You’ll find an incredible selection of familiar Smiley faces, as well as thousands of Smileys you might never have seen before, that are all available to you for FREE.

Now you can easily 'Express Yourself' to your friends when you are happy, sad, in love, grumpy (or experiencing just about any emotion) and share on Facebook, Instagram, via email, or any instant messaging app. To use our amazing icons, just choose the emoticon that best suits your mood, and for your mobile phones save it directly to your phone to send, or for desktop, drag and drop directly into your Facebook message and it will be ready go!




Blue and White Sprinkles

Dragon Fly


Great Britain

Cute Collegiate


Dolla Signs

Evil Laugh



Decorate your desktop or smartphone with a variety of exciting, positive and happy wallpapers from Smiley by simply drag and dropping them onto your desktop or saving and sending them from your phone!


  • Icon of the day

  • Seasonal

  • Style Tribes

  • Express yourself

  • national flag

  • Smiley masterclass

    Ever wondered how we created emoticons? Here’s your chance to enjoy an exclusive photoshop masterclass from the team at Smiley in how you can create your very own Smileys :-)