This Is Apple’s Weird New Emoji

3 minute read

Look out: Apple has concocted a strange new symbol for its emoji library—that set of fun digital stickers that often accompanies electronic communications nowadays.

The tech giant calls its new ideogram “eye in speech bubble,” notes Jeremy Burge, creator of emojipedia, a site dedicated to all things emoji, who first pointed it out on his personal Tumblr blog. Indeed, the symbol looks just like that: a dilated peeper set against a black chat balloon.

The new emoji appears in beta versions of Apple’s upcoming operating system upgrades, including previews of iOS 9.1 and OS X 10.11.1. Strangely though, the ideogram was not designed by the Unicode Authority, the organization that officially creates new emoji.

“To a casual observer, this appears to be just another emoji – one of many planned for the iOS 9.1 emoji update,” Burge writes, referencing an impending roll-out that includes new debuts such as symbols for tacos, burritos, and unicorns. “But the strange thing about this character (which Apple calls “eye in speech bubble”) is that it’s not a standard Unicode addition. It can’t be found in Unicode 1.1, or any other version right through to the Unicode 9.0 candidates.”

So how did it come about? Apple appears to have crafted the emoji by combining the “eye” with that of the “left speech bubble” through the same method that the company has used to create its more well-known sets of “family” emoji. The technique uses a concatenation character known as “zero width joiner” which, when deployed, links separate standard emoji into a single symbol. For example, one can group the “man,” “woman,” and younger children symbols into various combos, such as same-sexed couples.

Reddit users are currently brainstorming what the eye-bubble might mean. Some people have suggested that it could serve as a logo for iMessage, the company’s text messaging service. Other seem to think it could represent that a message has been read, like a read receipt.

Still others have proposed less likely suggestions, such relationships with Oculus, CBS, and the Illuminati.

Asked for his thoughts, Burge told Fortune in a message on Tumblr, “I don’t see why Apple would bother creating a logo for any feature as an emoji, instead of a graphic in the system – like all other icons, logos and symbols are,” he wrote. “Creating this symbol as an emoji indicates that whatever this is to be used for, requires it to be used in a text-only field of some kind.”

“I really don’t know!” he added.

One allure of the emoji repertoire is that its members can retain multiple, sometimes surprise meanings. Regardless of what Apple might decree, these symbols can mean whatever users decide they mean. (Exhibit A: the eggplant emoji.)

Interestingly, emoji has begun to reshape the language of business. No, really it has.

If you think you might know what this Sauron-looking sign is all about, consider shooting Fortune a note or commenting below. Otherwise, keep an eye out for these future emoji candidates.

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