What’s Unicode? | Definition from TechTarget

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What’s Unicode?

Unicode is a common character encoding commonplace that’s maintained by the Unicode Consortium, a requirements group based in 1991 for the internationalization of software program and companies. Formally known as the Unicode Commonplace, it supplies the premise for “processing, storage and interchange of textual content information in any language in all trendy software program and knowledge expertise protocols.” Unicode now helps all of the world’s writing programs, each trendy and historic, in accordance with the consortium.

The newest version of the Unicode Commonplace is model 15.0.0, which incorporates encodings for 149,186 characters. The usual bases its encodings on language scripts — the characters used for written language — reasonably than on the languages themselves. On this method, a number of languages can use the identical set of encodings, ensuing within the want for fewer encodings. For instance, the usual’s Latin script encodings help English, German, Danish, Romanian, Bosnian, Portuguese, Albanian and tons of of different languages.

Together with the usual’s character encoding, the Unicode Consortium supplies descriptions and different information about how the characters perform, together with particulars about subjects resembling the next:

  • Forming phrases and breaking traces.
  • Sorting textual content in several languages.
  • Formatting numbers, dates and instances.
  • Displaying languages written from proper to left.
  • Coping with safety considerations associated to “look-alike” characters.

The Unicode Commonplace defines a constant method to encoding multilingual textual content that allows interoperability between disparate programs. On this method, Unicode permits the worldwide alternate of data in a constant and environment friendly method, whereas offering a basis for world software program and companies. Each HTML and XML have adopted Unicode as their default system of encoding, as have most trendy working programs, programming languages and web protocols.

Unicode is the default system of encoding for each XML and HTML.

The rise of Unicode

Earlier than Unicode was universally adopted, completely different computing environments relied on their very own programs to encode textual content characters. Lots of them began with the American Commonplace Code for Data Interchange (ASCII), both conforming to this commonplace or enhancing it to help further characters. Nevertheless, ASCII was typically restricted to English or languages utilizing an analogous alphabet, resulting in the event of different encoding programs, none of which may deal with the wants of all of the world’s languages.

Earlier than lengthy, there have been tons of of particular person encoding requirements in use, lots of which conflicted with one another on the character degree. For instance, the identical character is likely to be encoded in a number of other ways. If a doc was encoded in accordance with one system, it is likely to be troublesome or not possible to learn that doc in an setting based mostly on one other system. Some of these points turned more and more pronounced because the web continued to realize in reputation and extra information was being exchanged throughout the globe.

The Unicode Commonplace began with the ASCII character set and steadily expanded to include extra characters and subsequently extra languages. The usual assigns a reputation and a numeric worth to every character. The numeric worth is known as the character’s code level and is expressed in a hexadecimal type that follows the U+ prefix. For instance, the code level for the Latin capital letter A is U+0041.

Unicode treats alphabetic characters, ideographic characters and different kinds of symbols in the identical method, serving to to simplify the general method to character encoding. On the identical time, it takes under consideration the character’s case, directionality and alphabetic properties, which outline its id and habits.

The Unicode Commonplace represents characters in certainly one of three encoding varieties:

  • 8-bit type (UTF-8). A variable-length type during which every character is between 1 and 4 bytes. The primary byte signifies the variety of bytes used for that character. The primary byte of a 1 byte character begins with 0. A 2 byte character begins with 110, a 3 byte character begins with 1110, and a 4 byte character begins with 11110. UTF-8 preserves ASCII in its authentic type, offering a 1:1 mapping that eases migrations. It is usually essentially the most generally used type throughout the online.
  • 16-bit type (UTF-16). A variable-length type during which every character is 2 or 4 bytes. The unique Unicode Commonplace was additionally based mostly on a 16-bit format. In UTF-16, characters that require 4 bytes, resembling emoji and emoticons, are thought-about supplementary characters. Supplementary characters use two 16-bit models, known as surrogate pairs, totaling 4 bytes per character. The 16-bit type can add implementation overhead due to the variability between 16-bit and 32-bit characters.
  • 32-bit type (UTF-32). A hard and fast-length type during which every character is 4 bytes. This manner can scale back implementation overhead as a result of it simplifies the programming mannequin. Alternatively, it forces using 4 bytes for all characters, irrespective of how few bytes are wanted, growing the influence on storage sources.

The 16-bit and 32-bit varieties each help little-endian byte serialization, during which the least vital byte is saved first, and big-endian byte serialization, during which essentially the most vital byte is first. As well as, all three varieties help the complete vary of Unicode code factors, U+0000 by U+10FFFF, which totals 1,114,112 attainable code factors. Nevertheless, nearly all of frequent characters on this planet’s chief languages are encoded within the first 65,536 code factors, that are referred to as the Primary Multilingual Aircraft, or BMP.

Learn this primer for builders on how binary and hexadecimal quantity programs work.

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