Experts Say Opera’s Emoji URLs Aren’t Going to Take Off

It's too clunky, and could be a security risk

Key Takeaways

  • Entering a string of specific emojis just isn’t as quick or intuitive as using alphanumeric characters.
  • Using emoji URLs as an eye-catching link for users to select could work, but images would work just as well in that case.
  • Embedded emojis that match the order of an emoji URL could result in unintentionally redirecting people to a website.
Two emoji badges, one happy, one sad

Dimitri Otis / Getty Images

Thanks to a partnership with Yat, Opera's web browser now supports web address URLs in emojis, but experts believe it's too awkward to be anything more than a gimmick.

The gist of Opera's latest feature works specifically through Yat, which allows users to create a custom web URL from a string of emojis—the resulting webpage can be customized or used as a redirect to a more typical website. Ideally, it would work as an attention-grabbing way for companies to get people to check out their websites, but experts are hesitant to view it as anything more than a fad.

"As fun and fresh as it seems, emoji URLs are just that—a fun little thing," said Dawid Zimny, Product Manager at London-based agile web agency NerdCow, in an email to Lifewire. "... it doesn't have any actual use outside of the novelty factor for marketers."

Too Clunky

Breaking the process down from a purely mechanical standpoint, replacing the standard alphanumeric URL entry with emojis is far more time-consuming. Mobile devices are likely the best-case scenario for such a feature, as their digital keyboards often include an option to pull up emoji libraries. That being said, depending on the emojis needed, it could still take some time to swipe through pages of tiny icons.

Hands gesturing at laptop

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"Apple has nearly 4,000 emojis in its library at the time of writing," Zimny pointed out. "Browsing them to find the right ones would take significantly longer than just typing in the words. And the alternative is searching for the emoji by keyword, which is just an extra, unnecessary step."

And that's a best-case scenario, with a device that places more importance on emojis than something like a computer, which doesn't typically have easy access to them. It creates a scenario where emojis would have to become easier to utilize with a physical keyboard, or users would have to find a way to copy and paste what they need.

"It's extremely inconvenient on desktops," Zimny said. "The average person types at 40 words per minute, so even a long address will take just a couple of seconds."

"As fun and fresh as it seems, emoji URLs are just that—a fun little thing."

Another possible alternative would be to circumvent the need for users to actually input emojis to visit the corresponding websites. It would bypass the clumsiness of having to hunt and peck for specific images but also kind of defeats the purpose of using emojis in a URL in the first place. At that point, the emoji URL would be functionally the same as clicking an image with an embedded URL.

"I feel it has novelty and graphic appeal but might be a bit cumbersome for some users," said Reno Lovison, sales and marketing expert at Reno Lovison Marketing, in an email to Lifewire. "Personally, I would consider using it in an email or social media situation where the message is basically 'click the link below,' but at this point, I would avoid it in print, signage, and other situations where the user has to input the emojis [themselves]."

Other Problems

Being able to input emoji as part of a URL isn't a new thing, either. Individuals and companies have been able to register emoji web addresses for some time now. The official extension for the New Zealand island of Tonga—.to—is just one example. What sets Opera's feature apart is that it can be 100% emojis—no ".to" at the end required.

person with a monitor box on their head and a smiley face at the display

ra2studio / Getty Images

"For years now, there have been a couple of top-level domains that allow the use of emojis, including the national domain of Tonga," Zimny stated. "We've purchased a fun domain for ourselves—🤓🐮.to, matching our NerdCow brand, and you can use it in any browser to go to our website."

On top of this, the lack of a need to use any kind of text for a specific web domain (i.e., .to or is concerning to Zimny. By Opera's own admission, emojis embedded on web pages can link to Yat pages when using the Opera browser.

"This means that if someone posts an unrelated combination of emojis on their web page and it matches an emoji URL in yat's library, visitors using the browser can click it and go to a website that wasn't supposed to be there," Zimny explained. "The idea is baffling, as websites using seemingly random emojis now risk linking to a page they want nothing to do with."

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