Re: Question about the “full Unicode in strings” strawman

Allen Wirfs-Brock allen at
Tue Jan 24 17:14:58 PST 2012

On Jan 24, 2012, at 2:11 PM, Mark S. Miller wrote:

> On Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:33 PM, Allen Wirfs-Brock <allen at> wrote:
> Note that this proposal isn't currently under consideration for inclusion in, but the answer to you question is below
> [...] 
> Just as the current definition of string specifies that a String is a sequence of 16-bit unsigned integer values, the proposal would specify that a String is a sequence of 32-bit unsigned integer values.  In neither cause is it required that the individual String elements must be valid Unicode code point or code units. 8 hex digits are required to express a the full range of unsigned 32-bit integers.
> Why 32? Unicode has only 21 bits of significance. Since we don't expect strings to be stored naively (taking up 4x the space that would otherwise be allocated),
I believe most current implementation actually store 16-bits per characters so it would be 2x rather than 4x

> I don't see the payoff from choosing the next power of 2. The other choices I see are a) 21 bits, b) 53 bits, or c) unbounded.

The current 16-bit character strings are sometimes uses to store non-Unicode binary data and can be used with non-Unicode character encoding with up to 16-bit chars.  21 bits is sufficient for Unicode but perhaps is not enough for other useful encodings.  32-bit seems like a plausable unit.

The real controversy that developed over this proposal regarded whether or not every individual Unicode characters needs to be uniformly representable as a single element of a String. This proposal took the position that they should.  Other voices felt that such uniformity was unnecessary and seem content to expose UTF-8 or UTF-16.  The argument was that applications may have to look at multiple character logical units anyway, so dealing with UTF encodings isn't much of an added burden. 

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