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Twitter could move beyond its heart symbol to offer richer responses

A feature hidden in a developer version of Twitter's app shows emojis to express more emotions. That feature would add complexity to the service, but also nuance.

You may soon be able to cry, laugh or express your anger at a tweet.

Twitter users displeased with the service's decision earlier this month to replace the long-serving star-shaped favorite symbol with a heart might have some new options for responding to others' tweets.

The social network service may let people react to tweets with emoji characters expressing a broader range of emotions if a feature currently being tested makes it onto the service. Twitter user @_Ninji noticed the ability to select from a small range of emoji hidden in a developer build of the social network's app for iPhones.

The option arrived as Facebook, a more widely used social network, has begun experimenting with a similar feature. It plans to allow users to play with a small selection of emoji responses soon.

Twitter and Facebook today offer just a single icon to people responding to posts, but the changes indicate that they're looking for a more expressive way for people to use the network rapidly. On Facebook, users complained that just having a "like" button wasn't fitting for times when they wanted to express sympathy for a friend's sad or angry post. And although a range of emoji would add some complexity to the service, it also could make it easier for people to dash off a quick response, especially when using a smartphone where typing nuanced replies is more difficult.

And emoji are becoming embedded broadly into the Internet. The Oxford Dictionaries on Monday made the emoji symbol for "face with tears of joy" its word of the year.

Twitter did not respond to our request for comment, but when asked by The Verge to confirm if it was testing the feature, the company sent a monkey emoji with its hands over its mouth. This could be taken to mean to mean "no comment", but as with all emoji, it's open to interpretation.

Responding to questions from the Verge, @_Ninji said it was necessary to jailbreak the app to find the feature. If one of the emoji was selected it would be replaced by a heart when the timeline was refreshed.

Three tabs of 12 emoji appear to be available for reaction, according to @_Ninji's screenshots. These include a variety of different of facial expressions -- monkey and human -- the 100 symbol, a cheers with beers, several hand gestures and of course everyone's favorite emoji, poop.