The text symbol for happiness, approval, and humor was invented by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman twenty five years ago today as a tool to avoid misunderstanding of text-based online communication within emails and online forums by clarifying that the writer intended the preceding text to be a joke or ironic.
The smiley face and frowning emoticon inspired many more emoticons, which have now become standard practice for clarifying online text-based messages used in emails, online forums, chat rooms and instant messaging, and text messaging.
Though the use of them might seem cute, silly, or juvenile at times, as anyone who has had an email disasterously misunderstood can testify, emoticons are an essential tool for clear communication. Though the emoticon was invented for use in old school email and obsolete Usenet newsgroups, they will not be fading away anytime soon in the multimedia age. They remain a central component of clear communication not just for email, chat rooms, and instant messaging, but also and increasingly within mobile communication mediums such as text messaging.
Do not think of emoticons as something just the kids use. They can certainly be a great device to use in marketing campaigns targeted at younger demographics, but properly and appropriately used, they can be an essential tool in delivering a crystal clear marketing message to any audience.