Emoji icons vs Emoticons Emoji is a special standartized set of icons, invented by Shigetaka Kurita in 1995. Emoticons are any smiley symbols. Emoticons represent a broad category of icons, while emoji include only specific icons. E.g. in this app (Emoji Emoticons Art) you can see Emoji Library (the full collection of emoji) and and Emoticons collection. The difference becomes quite clear.