MOMA's Paul's Galloway writes The Original Emoji Set Has Been Added to The Museum of Modern Art’s Collection:
I don't mind yellow-faced smilies, especially when picked from a list, but I'm sometimes bummed the standard is to automatically translate punctuation smilies like :-) into the cartoon version. It takes a semi-clever typographical joke into a very literal thing, and sometimes has issues with expressions from different emoji sets setting carrying somewhat different moods. (Or stuff like Apple swapping the gun for a squirt gun.) Also sometimes I worry that we're regressing into simple pictographs. On the other hand Wired had a guide to some of the way teens were using emoji in somewhat more nuanced ways.
I think you can tell Asia has driven a lot of the Emoji standards (I mean, even besides the name which has supplanted Emoticons and Smilies.) For instance in the 1990s, at least for me
:-) was smiling, and
:-D was laughing
but those are called"slightly smiling" and "grinning" respectively, it seems, and the laughing involves tears.
One thing I discovered playing Pictionary with Germans is that, even an English, a frown is defined as the gesture of the brow, not the lips ("furrow one's brow in an expression of disapproval, displeasure, or concentration.") Similarly, historically Asian emoticons often emphasize the eyes rather than the mouth- In 2003 I blogged about about some Japanese Smilies:
Those were all ASCII based... as Unicode caught on, of course there was even more flexibility in character-based emoji perhaps reaching it's pinnacle with
I do love that guy.