The Secret Life of Unicode: A Peek at Unicode's Soft Underbelly
Suzanne Topping - BizWonk, Inc.
Purpose:Provide an overview of what people perceive to be the problem or weak areas of Unicode.
Most of us in the technology world view Unicode as a basic necessity for dealing with multiple character sets. No one really talks about its strengths or weaknesses; it simply is. But like any technical solution, Unicode has advantages and disadvantages. It even has (gasp) competitors. So rather than ignoring the fact that downsides exist, this article takes a look at Unicode's perceived weak points.
Issues discussed are problems with East Asian scripts, support for the wide range of existing standards, difficulties with bi-directional language handling, and non-standardized handling for positional forms, subjoined letters, and logical versus visual ordering.
Although Unicode might not be a perfect solution to the challenge of handling all the world's characters, it has moved us a long way toward being able to create systems that can deal with a wide range of languages. During its evolution, the original design goals have had to evolve, and in some ways degrade, to meet real-life challenges. As with any technology, Unicode will undoubtedly be replaced by something that works better. Eventually. But we aren't likely to see that happen any time soon. For now, it is a long-awaited and much-appreciated solution to the world's multilingual computing requirements.
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