Unicode is a computing industry standard for the consistent encoding, representation, and handling of text expressed in most of the world's writing systems. Developed in conjunction with the Universal Coded Character Set (UCS) standard and published as The Unicode Standard, the latest version of Unicode contains a repertoire of more than 120,000 characters covering 129 modern and historic scripts, as well as multiple symbol sets. The standard consists of a set of code charts for visual reference, an encoding method and set of standard character encodings, a set of reference data files, and a number of related items, such as character properties, rules for normalization, decomposition, collation, rendering, and bidirectional display order (for the correct display of text containing both right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic and Hebrew, and left-to-right scripts). As of June 2015, the most recent version is Unicode 8.0. The standard is maintained by the Unicode Consortium.
Unicode's success at unifying character sets has led to its widespread and predominant use in the internationalization and localization of computer software. The standard has been implemented in many recent technologies, including modern operating systems, XML, the Java programming language, and the Microsoft .NET Framework.
Unicode can be implemented by different character encodings. The most commonly used encodings are UTF-8, UTF-16 and the now-obsolete UCS-2. UTF-8 uses one byte for any ASCII character, all of which have the same code values in both UTF-8 and ASCII encoding, and up to four bytes for other characters. UCS-2 uses a 16-bit code unit (two 8-bit bytes) for each character but cannot encode every character in the current Unicode standard. UTF-16 extends UCS-2, using one 16-bit unit for the characters that were representable in UCS-2 and two 16-bit units (4 × 8 bit) to handle each of the additional characters.