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Instagram uses its billions of comments to define and rank emoji

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Instagram is solving some of the internet's greatest mysteries — like just what it is people mean when they use that salsa dancer emoji. One of the company's software engineers, Thomas Dimson, has used Instagram's endless stores of comments to analyze emoji. In an in-depth blog post, Dimson shows how emoji usage has blossomed over the years — nearly half of all comments now contain an emoji, up from just around 20 percent from 2012 to 2013.

But it's his emoji definitions and rankings that are of particular interest. Dimson used algorithms and the context around emoji usage to come up with English-language definitions, and he quantified how often each emoji is used. Here are some of the top-used emoji on Twitter, with their corresponding "definitions":

instagram emoji

And that salsa dancer? Here are a couple of definitions the algorithms spit out: #birthdaybehavior, #ladiesnight, #turnuptime, #dontmissit, and #grownandsexy. For more, check out the full blog post from Instagram's engineering team.