Re: Unicode Standard & ISO-10646 Standard

From: Kenneth Whistler (
Date: Tue May 11 1999 - 20:50:35 EDT

Keld Simonsen responded to Ricardo Bermell Benet:

> On Tue, May 11, 1999 at 01:15:26AM -0700, Ricardo Bermell Benet wrote:
> >
> > I don't fully understand the relation between ISO-10646 and Unicode.
> >
> > The most I know is that ISO-10646 is an international standard,
> > proposed by public national organizations of many countries, and
> > Unicode is a "standard based in" or ┐implementation of? ISO-10646,
> > proposed by major American (United States) private organizations.
> My understanding is that ISO will make IS 10646 freely available on the web

Unfortunately, this assertion hides a lot of the messy details.

ISO has been talking about making IS 10646 available on the web, but
the original concept was to put IS 10646-1:1993 up on the web. There
is considerable opposition to that in WG2, since anyone who accessed
that document and attempted to implement to it would be in serious
trouble if they did not also have access to all of the subsequently
approved amendments to IS 10646-1:1993, especially Amendments 1, 2,
and 5. Furthermore, the process of serial application of all the
approved and pending amendments is mind-bogglingly complex -- there is
approximately one person on the planet who can do this correctly,
namely the current editor of 10646. As a result, the consensus in
WG2 is that the correct document to make available for web access
is what will probably be IS 10646-1:2000 (the second edition of 10646-1),
sometime next year.

While some in ISO may *intend* to make the entire second edition
available on the web, it is not clear that this is a done deal yet,
both because of its pricing impact on the paper distribution of
the standard and because of the technical issues inherent in generating
the charts in a form that *can* be posted on the web. The SC2 plenary
in Fukuoka on March 16 did not take any resolution about this, and
wishing it were so won't make it so.

Third, if 10646-1 second edition does get posted on the web eventually,
and if it is nominally "free" for the taking, it will not be cost-free
in practice. Any such document will be enormous, because of the
1000 pages or so of character charts. Those charts will be enormous
because of the embedded font information. Anyone with less than a T1
or fast DSL channel is going to have a serious time cost in pulling over any
significant portion of the standard, and then another time cost in
trying to print what they get.

Fourth, while it will be handy to have the standard available for
those with online access, since that will make it possible to answer
questions about the standard without having to haul a big book
around, most serious implementers will need to have the whole, bound
edition available on their desk anyway. I know there are exceptional
people out there who prefer all their documentation online, but I
personally hate having to deal even with 100-page online documents
for reference, let alone 1000+ page documents with slow download
times. The book form is at least an order of magnitude more efficient
for fast, efficient cross-reference and random access.

Finally, while nobody yet knows the exact prices for the Unicode
Standard, Version 3.0 book and for the IS 10646-1:2000 document,
you can expect the difference in price to be comparable to what
the current situation is:

The Unicode Standard, Version 2.0, list price $62.95 ($59.00
direct from the Unicode Consortium, and with member discounts
available). Includes lots of information about the characters
and scripts in the standard, algorithms and data tables required
for implementation, and already incorporates all the Amendments
through Amendment 7 to 10646-1, plus any relevant information
from Technical Corrigenda #1 and #2 to 10646-1. Contact the
Unicode Consortium at:


IS 10646-1:1993, plus Amendments 1-7 and applicable corrigenda.
Includes no additional information about the characters and
scripts in the standard. Contains no additional information
about algorithms needed to implement the universal character
set interoperably, and very little in the way of additional
data tables.

You can order the whole shebang direct from ISO Central Secretariat

for a total of 648,50 CHF, or in the U.S. from ANSI

for a total of $585 for the standard plus Amendments 1-7.

Then you can download Technical Corrigenda #1 and #2 off the SC2 website
by contacting the SC2/WG2 convener at the address provided via And then you can put all those
documents together yourself. And then you can go to the Unicode
anonymous ftp site to get the additional data tables you will need to
implement the standard anyway.

Good luck,


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