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What Is Unicode?

The world's written languages come in many scripts and styles. There are the calligraphic strokes of the Japanese and Chinese languages, the distinctive script of Hebrew, the flowing letters of Arabic, and many, many other styles with unique flourishes. Traditionally, ASCII text, consisting of 256 different characters, was the only encoding we had to represent all of these languages on the Web. Naturally, this limited character set could represent only Western European languages with any facility. Then along came Unicode, a 16-bit encoding standard that encompasses most of the written languages in the world, as well as publishing, mathematical, and technical symbols and punctuation marks. Unicode provides a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language. Before Unicode, there were hundreds of disparate systems to encode different languages. Now every major hardware and software developer has embraced the Unicode standard.

Unicode provides a unique number for every single letter of every single alphabet so that all servers and all browsers using all computer operating systems can speak about the same thing. What this allows is a global interchange, processing, and display of written text of both the modern and historical world. In other words, it is the first truly global language standard.


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