As we go into the New Year, the Unicode team thought we’d share some highlights from this past year. From source-code spoofing to preserving indigenous languages, the Unicode team has had another full year, including expanding the number of characters that appear on billions of devices around the world.
Nearly 150,000 characters!On the character side, we reached a total of just shy of 150,000 characters (149,186 to be exact). Of the 4,489 characters added in the 15.0 release, the biggest set was 4,192 ideographs for use in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. There are also two new scripts, Nag Mundari and Kawi. Nag Mundari is a script used to write the Mundari language of India, a language with 1.1 million speakers. Kawi is an important historic script of insular Southeast Asia, found in inscriptions and on artifacts in several languages dating from the 8th to the 16th centuries — and is undergoing a revival today amongst enthusiasts.
And we can’t forget the 20 new emoji characters — we’re looking forward to seeing which are the most popular: shaking face? Goose? Maracas? Pink heart? If you’re involved in implementing emoji, you’ll also want to look at latest changes in UTS #51 Unicode Emoji.
See the Unicode15.0.0 page for more details. We’re also changing how we do releases — for more, see 2023 Release Planning.
The Launch of ICU4XICU is used in every major device and operating system; it’s how you see a date or number on your phone, for example. This new project, ICU4X, was created to solve the needs of clients who wish to provide client-side internationalization for their products in resource-constrained environments and across many programming languages. After 2½ years of work by Google, Mozilla, Amazon, and community partners, the Unicode Consortium has published ICU4X 1.0, its first stable release. Built from the ground up to be lightweight, portable, and secure, ICU4X learns from decades of experience to bring localized date formatting, number formatting, collation, text segmentation, and more to devices that, until now, did not have a suitable solution. For details, see Announcing ICU4X 1.0.
When does i ≠ і?Can you tell the difference between i and і? Yeah, most people can’t. The first set of changes to help counter source-code spoofing were included in the 15.0 versions of the UAX #9 Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm, UAX #31 Unicode Identifier and Pattern Syntax, and UTS #39 Unicode Security Mechanisms.
For 2023, there is a new draft UTS #55 Unicode Source Code Handling, providing guidance for programming language designers and tooling developers, and specifying mechanisms to avoid usability and security issues arising from improper handling of Unicode. More changes are on their way for UAX #9, UAX #31, and UTS #39 as well.
Åge Møller, Πέτρος Νικόλαος Καρατζής, ராஜேந்திர சோழன்We’re making great progress on internationalized formatting of people’s names. What does that mean? Software needs to be able to format people's names, such as John Smith or 宮崎駿. The formatting can be surprisingly complicated: for example, people may have a different number of names, depending on their culture — they might have only one name (“Zendaya”), only two (“Albert Einstein”), or three or more. So the software needs to handle missing or extra name fields gracefully.
There are many more complexities — for more details, see Formatting people’s names.
You have 2 unread messages.Or, you have 3 items in your cart. Whenever a computer needs to construct a sentence using “placeholders” such as 3, it is formatting a message. The current industry standard is ICU’s message formatting; a project started about 3 years ago, with the goal of improving on that to build a more robust and extensible mechanism. There is now a Tech Preview in ICU — we’d urge developers to try it out!
See message-format-wg for details on the syntax and message2/package-summary.html for the API (note that the ICU’s convention for tech previews is to mark as Deprecated), and the test code in MessageFormat2Test.java for examples of usage.
(There are of course other fixes, upgrades and new features in ICU: see ICU 72 and ICU 71 for more details.)
Māori, Wolof, тоҷикӣ, کٲشُر, ትግርኛ, कॉशुर, মৈতৈলোন্, ᱥᱟᱱᱛᱟᱲᱤIn CLDR, we now have 95 languages at the Modern level (suitable for full UI internationalization), 6 at the Moderate level (suitable for “document content” internationalization), and 29 at the Basic level (suitable for locale selection). We added a tech preview of formatting for person names, plus additions for Unicode 15.0 (emoji names and search keywords), names for new scripts, new CJK collation, and so on. For more information, see CLDR v42.
Revitalization and Preservation of Indigenous LanguagesThe Nattilik language community was unable to use their language reliably for even simple, everyday digital text exchanges such as email or text messaging. The Typotheque Syllabics Project, an initiative based out of Toronto and The Hague, Netherlands, undertook research with language keepers across various Syllabics-using Indigenous communities in Canada. By collaborating with Nattilik language keepers and elders in the community, key issues the Nattilik community of Western Nunavut faced were identified, and it was discovered that there were 12 missing syllabic characters from the Unicode Standard. The Consortium worked with the Typotheque Syllabics Project to add 16 characters to the script to support Nattilik and other languages in Unicode version 14.0, and improved the glyphs in Unicode version 15.0. See this blog post from June.
The Past and Future of Flag EmojiDespite being the largest emoji category with a strong association tied to identity, flags are by far the least used. Flag emoji have always been subject to special criteria due to their open-ended nature, infrequent use, and burden on implementations. The addition of other flags and thousands of valid sequences into the Unicode Standard has not resulted in wider adoption. They don’t stand still, are constantly evolving, and due to the open-ended nature of flags, the addition of one creates exclusivity at the expense of others. Curious to learn more? Read more about the Past and Future of Flag Emoji.
Available Now! New YouTube Playlist and Technical Quick Start GuideOn September 28th, Unicode held a webinar on the “Overview of Internationalization and Unicode Projects” for Unicode enthusiasts. Unicode technical leadership and other experts shared background on our core projects with participants from more than 30 countries. If you missed the webinar, no worries! The recorded sessions are available on this YouTube playlist. And if you are new to Unicode and internationalization or simply want a refresh, you can also check out our Technical Quick Start Guide. This handy guide explains what Unicode is, including answering the question, “What is Internationalization and Why it Matters.” There are also useful links to more detailed information and how you can get involved. Read more here.
Support Unicode 💞💕💌💯✨🌟🤠🎁Finally, if you are already a contributor to — or member of Unicode (or your company or organization is!), thank you, Danke, Děkuju, धन्यवाद, merci, 谢谢你, grazie, நன்றி, and gracias! What we have accomplished is only possible because of supporters like you.
And if you want to support Unicode’s mission to ensure everyone can communicate in their languages across all devices, please consider adopting a character, making a gift of stock, or making a donation. As Unicode is a US-based non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, your contribution may be eligible for a tax deduction. Please consult with a tax advisor for details.