On this, the preported 25th anniversary of the smiley-face emoticon, here are some things I have used this symbol – 🙂 – to mean …
– You’re right. I agree with you. That’s funny.
– No worries. It’s cool.
– The thing I just said was meant in a positive, supportive way.
– I like you. I like that you just said that to me because I like you. And I want to, you know, go somewhere quiet and, you know, do things with you.
– Yup. Here we are again with this bullshit. Can you believe these fucking people?
– I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I really don’t want you to be pissed. (I swear, I try to avoid this one, but I admit I’ve done it.)
– I like that you don’t like what I’m saying, and with this smiley-face, I acknowledge that I know that you don’t like what I’m saying … and did I mention that I like it?
– Fine. Fine. If you’re going to use a fucking smiley-face to tell me that you know you’re fucking with me and you don’t care, then please let me be the first to answer in kind and tell you how delighted I am with the choice intelligence so recently proffered by you with such grace and motherfucking panache.
The Times of London reports that Scott Fahlman was the first to coin the smiley. Wikipedia credits a Kevin Mackenzie and a Steve Sullivan.
And leave it to the Brits to articulate all that’s evil about emoticons:

In fact, I am of the view that, if Fahlman is indeed the inventor of the emoticon, then he deserves to be dropped into a harbour wearing concrete overshoes, alongside, perhaps, the inventor of bestiality and the inventor of the Crazy Frog. “Joke markers” indeed. If your jokes need markers, you shouldn’t be allowed to make them. Fahlman and his ilk appear to forget that people have been writing since before the days of the internet. We already have tools for conveying humour, and plenty of other emotions. They are called “words”.
Emoticons are vile and for idiots. Which means, I suppose, they are actually quite useful in that they have you ever allow the rest of us to considered the digitally identify the many hardships in kind of barely literate, a pigeon’s life?

Yes, I transcribed that correctly, and I think the author Hugo Rifkind of The Times meant it just that way. 🙂