[rfc-i] Unicode or UTF-8

Joe Hildebrand jhildebr at cisco.com
Thu Mar 29 05:49:42 PDT 2012

Strongly recommend that whatever format we pick, it's ALWAYS utf8-encoded,
so no need for a BOM.  If it's HTML, I'd recommend adding:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

to the header section, in case the file is loaded directly from disk.  In
such cases there's no chance for HTTP headers to help out.

On 3/29/12 1:56 PM, "Paul Hoffman" <paul.hoffman at vpnc.org> wrote:

> On Mar 29, 2012, at 11:45 AM, Dave Thaler wrote:
>> Paul Hoffman writes:
>>> On Mar 28, 2012, at 6:57 PM, Tim Bray wrote:
>>>> I confess that I can never resist a chance at character-encoding
>>>> pedantry.  The BOM is actually not there to identify UTF-8, it's there
>>>> because the BOM character exists to help sort out byte order in other
>>>> encodings that actually have byte-order issues (UTF-8 doesn't) and
>>>> since it's a Unicode character, there's a UTF-8 encoding for it.  The
>>>> issue of how you identify the encoding of a chunk of bytes,
>>>> particularly in the Web context, is a vexed one, particularly with
>>>> XML, which makes the encoding of a document self-identifying; so
>>>> should you believe what the doc says about itself, or the server's
>>>> opinion as expressed in the Content-type; but I digress... -T
>>> +1. RFC 3829 says that using the BOM in a UTF-8 file "is useless". Let's not
>>> go
>>> there.
>> I assume you meant RFC 3629, not RFC 3829.
> Yes.
>> I'm trying to find the statement you refer to, and so far I'm not seeing it.
> First paragraph of Section 6:
>    The UCS character U+FEFF "ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE" is also known
>    informally as "BYTE ORDER MARK" (abbreviated "BOM").  This character
>    can be used as a genuine "ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE" within text, but
>    the BOM name hints at a second possible usage of the character:  to
>    prepend a U+FEFF character to a stream of UCS characters as a
>    "signature".  A receiver of such a serialized stream may then use the
>    initial character as a hint that the stream consists of UCS
>    characters and also to recognize which UCS encoding is involved and,
>    with encodings having a multi-octet encoding unit, as a way to
>    recognize the serialization order of the octets.  UTF-8 having a
>    single-octet encoding unit, this last function is useless and the BOM
>    will always appear as the octet sequence EF BB BF.
>> I can find a statement that identifying *byte-order* is useless, but that's
>> far from saying the BOM in a UTF-8 file is useless.
> Using the character in a file is not useless; using it as a byte order mark is
> useless.
>> I was paraphrasing from the Unicode FAQ:
>> http://www.unicode.org/faq/utf_bom.html#bom4
>> The exact text is
>> "a BOM can be used as a signature no matter how the Unicode text is
>> transformed: UTF-16, UTF-8, or UTF-32. The exact bytes comprising the
>> BOM will be whatever the Unicode character U+FEFF is converted into
>> by that transformation format. In that form, the BOM serves to indicate
>> both that it is a Unicode file, and which of the formats it is in."
>> The last sentence matches what I was referring to.   The fact that it tells
>> byte-order of UTF-16 and UTF-32 is not relevant here, just the fact that
>> it indicates that the file is encoded in UTF-8 and not some odd ANSI or
>> whatever encoding, without relying on something else like a .utf8
>> filename extension.
>> The UTF-8 BOM in files is often used for that purpose.
> I think you are saying that a BOM at the beginning of a UTF-8 file is good for
> encoding-sniffing. That's true, but maybe it is also proposing a bad practice.
> --Paul Hoffman
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Joe Hildebrand

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