|Formation||January 3, 1991|
|Founded at||California, US|
|Legal status||501(c)(3) California nonprofit benefit corporation|
|Purpose||"To develop, extend and promote use of various standards, data, and open source software libraries which specify the representation of text in modern software[,] ... allowing data to be shared across multiple platforms, languages and countries without corruption"|
The Unicode Consortium (legally Unicode, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization incorporated and based in Mountain View, California. Its primary purpose is to maintain and publish the Unicode Standard which was developed with the intention of replacing existing character encoding schemes which are limited in size and scope, and are incompatible with multilingual environments. The consortium describes its overall purpose as
enabl[ing] people around the world to use computers in any language, by providing freely-available specifications and data to form the foundation for software internationalization in all major operating systems, search engines, applications, and the World Wide Web. An essential part of this purpose is to standardize, maintain, educate and engage academic and scientific communities, and the general public about, make publicly available, promote, and disseminate to the public a standard character encoding that provides for an allocation for more than a million characters.
Unicode's success at unifying character sets has led to its widespread adoption in the internationalization and localization of software. The standard has been implemented in many technologies, including XML, the Java programming language, Swift, and modern operating systems.
Voting members include computer software and hardware companies with an interest in text-processing standards, including Adobe, Apple, the Bangladesh Computer Council, Emojipedia, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, the Omani Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, Monotype Imaging, Netflix, SAP SE, Tamil Virtual Academy, and the University of California, Berkeley. Technical decisions relating to the Unicode Standard are made by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC).
The project to develop a universal character encoding scheme called Unicode was initiated in 1987 by Joe Becker, Lee Collins, and Mark Davis. The Unicode Consortium was incorporated in California on January 3, 1991, with the stated aim to develop, extend, and promote the use of the Unicode Standard. Mark Davis has been president of the Unicode Consortium since the consortium was incorporated in 1991.
Our goal is to make sure that all of the text on computers for every language in the world is represented but we get a lot more attention for emojis than for the fact that you can type Chinese on your phone and have it work with another phone.-- Unicode Consortium co-founder and president Mark Davis
The Unicode Consortium cooperates with many standards development organizations, including ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2 and W3C. While Unicode is often considered equivalent to ISO 10646, and the character sets are essentially identical, the Unicode standard imposes additional restrictions on implementations that ISO 10646 does not. Apart from The Unicode Standard (TUS) and its annexes (UAX), the Unicode Consortium also maintains the CLDR, collaborated with the IETF on IDNA, and publishes related standards (UTS), reports (UTR), and utilities.
The Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) meets quarterly to decide whether new characters will be encoded. A quorum of half of the consortium's full members is required.
As of July 2020, there are nine full members, only one of which, the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs of Oman, is not a tech or software company. The other eight, as of the same period, are Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, and SAP SE.
The UTC accepts documents from any organization or individual, whether they are members of the Unicode Consortium or not. The UTC holds its meetings behind closed doors, and its voting members are overwhelmingly white, American, and male. As of July 2020, the UTC rules on both emoji and script proposals at the same meeting.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic's effect on travel, the meetings, which used to be hosted on the campuses of various tech companies who would open their doors to the consortium for free, were in 2020 held online via Zoom, although the discussions remain confidential. The UTC prefers to work by consensus, but on particularly contentious issues, votes may be necessary. After it meets, the UTC releases a public statement on each proposal it considered.
Due to the volume of incoming proposals, various subcommittees, such as the Script Ad Hoc Group and Emoji Subcommittee, exist to submit recommendations to the full UTC en banc. The UTC is under no obligation to heed these recommendations, although in practice it usually does.
The Unicode Consortium maintains a History of Unicode Release and Publication Dates.
Note: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic crisis, until further notice, all Unicode Technical Committee meetings are held via video conference. Details for joining the meeting hosted on the Unicode Zoom account are listed on the logistics page for each meeting.