What is Unicode?
Unicode provides a unique number for every
no matter what the platform,
no matter what the program,
no matter what the language.
Characters Before Unicode
Fundamentally, computers just deal with numbers. They store
letters and other characters by assigning a number for each one.
Before Unicode was invented, there were hundreds of different
systems, called character encodings, for assigning these numbers.
These early character encodings were limited and could not contain
enough characters to cover all the world's languages.
Even for a single language like English no single
encoding was adequate for all the letters, punctuation, and
technical symbols in common use.
Early character encodings also conflicted with one another. That is,
two encodings could use the same number for two different
characters, or use different numbers for the same character.
Any given computer (especially servers) would need to support many
different encodings. However, when data is passed through different
computers or between different encodings, that data runs the risk of
Unicode has changed all that!
The Unicode Standard provides a unique number for every character,
no matter what platform, device, application or language.
It has been adopted by all modern software providers and now
allows data to be transported through many different platforms,
devices and applications without corruption. Support of Unicode forms
the foundation for the representation of languages and symbols in all
major operating systems, search engines, browsers, laptops, and
smart phones—plus the Internet and World Wide Web
(URLs, HTML, XML, CSS, JSON, etc.).
Supporting Unicode is the best way to implement ISO/IEC 10646.
The emergence of the Unicode Standard and the availability of tools
supporting it are among the most significant recent global software technology trends.
About the Unicode Consortium
Unicode Consortium is a non-profit,
501(c)(3) organization founded to
develop, extend and promote use of the Unicode Standard
and related globalization standards which specify the representation
of text in modern software products and other standards.
The Consortium is supported financially through membership dues and donations.
the Unicode Consortium is open to organizations and individuals anywhere
in the world who support the Unicode Standard and wish to assist in its
extension and implementation. All are invited to contribute to the support
of the Consortium's important work by making a donation.
For more information, see the
FAQ, and the list of
Looking for Translations?
This page used to feature a series of translations in many different languages
and scripts, in part to highlight the scope and use of the Unicode Standard.
However, the original text content of the page needed updating, and managing
the update of all of the separate translations to match was not feasible. For archival purposes,
the old text of the
What is Unicode? page and the numerous original translations linked from
that page are still available.
However, please use that text with caution, because it is outdated.
These days, Unicode implementations are so widespread that it is easy to
find examples online in many languages and scripts. In particular, consulting
any page in the Wikipedia will immediately
let you click through to similar pages in other languages and writing systems,
actively maintained by the large Wikipedia community of editors. There are millions
of articles in the Wikipedia, all using the Unicode Standard for the representation of text.