Text smileys vs graphical ones



Brad of BradBlogging had been recently bugging me about why I have graphical smileys disabled at my blog. Even made suggestion “Why Text Smilies are better than Graphical ones :P ” in my Skribit widget. By his command I am sharing my opinion on why in-text graphical smileys should go and die . \0-0/


Text is most versatile part of Internet. It may be formatted, styled and enhanced with semantic markup but there is no guarantee it would stay that way. As soon as this post is published it will be released from single looks and gain numerous appearances in different browsers and feed readers .

Graphical smileys break that versatile appearance of text – in a major way:

  • they won’t scale well together with text, breaking line height;
  • they won’t remain part of text when someone copy/pastes it for a quote or a note;
  • they won’t show without images enabled and mostly won’t degrade to plain text properly;
  • they won’t fit surrounding design and content (unless custom designed – and who bothers?).


Making content inconsistent is bad enough but there is even worse sin graphical smileys often commit. They can easily twist meaning by being different on two ends of communication . I personally had huge misunderstanding in IM when I was sending smiley with have-a-question image and other party was seeing want-to-puke one.

There is some degree of control when you hard-code smiley images in web-publishing. There is completely no control over what smiley other party will see in other places like email and IM. On forums even when you see exactly what smiley you are using today – next week smiley set can be suddenly changed, morphing your emotions in something utterly different.


Unfortunately unicode symbols☺and vector images never made it mainstream online , chaining us to pixelated hell of popular smiley sets. At least there is often option left to disable graphical smileys in forum, blogging and other web software. (x(x_(X_x(O_o)x_x)_X)x)

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  • Brad Blogging.com - Personal Blog Tips And Blog Help #

    LOL. Point taken. :) "Copying and pasting articles" - when would you do that?? Just out of curiosity.
  • Rarst #

    @Brad As post says - for a quote/note. For example if I want to quote part of smiley-heavy post from your blog in mine. How should I do it? Editing means changing your words, re-creating your smileys means hotlinking to your images (which may or may not work), etc. Sometimes I save stuff as notes in Opera sidebar. It works with plain text (only saves link to original).
  • Ben Tremblay #

    I never really thought about it for the reason I never really had problems with smileys. I usually don't use a lot of smileys, only the classics ";)" and ":)" so they display more or less the same on all platforms. I don't like smileys "in-post", I don't think they look very professional so you shouldn't have any problems copy-pasting my articles ;). In comments it's OK though. You made me think...But I don't see it as a crucial issue for me.
  • Rarst #

    @Ben I never said issue is critical one. :) But personally I prefer graphical smileys disabled, less trouble that way.
  • Klemen #

    I only disable graphical smileys in WP installations because some wp themes are really fond of using img border on every single image, including smilies. And since I'm often too lazy to add that extra line to css, I just go with "text mode".
  • Rarst #

    @Klemen Exactly. :) Why bother fixing something unneeded in first place.
  • Klemen #

    And a bit of history for you: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/mbj/Smiley/Smiley.html
  • Rarst #

    @Klemen Yeah, I know that story. :) Must be good to have documented proof you invented something so symbolic.