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Wheee! June 8, 2010

Posted by globalizer in Unicode.
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It didn’t take long for the speed down the slide to pick up.

Remember the emoji encoding discussion back in 2008? Well, Unicode 6.0 containing the new “characters” only just came out in Beta, but as predicted, they are now being used as the justification for encoding – well, just about anything…

For instance, a proposal to encode “a portable interpretable object code into Unicode”:

> Creating new writing systems, directly embedding language,
> directly embedding mathematics or machine language–all of
> these are entirely outside of Unicode’s purview and WG2’s
> remit.  They simply will not be adopted.

Well, the emoji is a new writing system and that is being encoded. The encoding of the emoji has made me realize that the encoding of the portable interpretable object code is not an impossibility.

> Your enthusiasm may be commendable, but you’re spending
> your energy developing something which is not appropriate
> for inclusion within Unicode.

Thank you for your first remark, yet whether the portable interpretable object code is or is not appropriate for inclusion within Unicode is a matter that is not decided at this time.

There was a time when emoticons were not regarded as appropriate for inclusion in Unicode, yet they are now being encoded. That is an important precedent that what is appropriate depends upon the circumstances at the time, not on what was the policy previously.

Admittedly, the current proposal seems to be a solution in search of a problem. The author indicates that it

is intended to be a system to use to program software packages to solve problems of software globalization, particularly in relation to systems that use software to process text

but even though I work with software globalization on a daily basis, for the life of me I cannot think of something related to software globalization that:

  1. I want to do
  2. I cannot do with existing technology and standards
  3. This proposal will allow me to do

This specific proposal of course has a snowball’s chance in hell of being encoded, but the emoji argument will be a lot more difficult to counter once we get to something that is at least conceptually related to text. So hold on to your hats as the slide gets steeper and more slippery!

Oh, and by the way: for sheer entertainment value, the last couple of weeks’ worth of Unicode mail archives is priceless.

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