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Network Working Group R. McGowan Request for Comments: 3718 Unicode Category: Informational February 2004

  A Summary of Unicode Consortium Procedures, Policies, Stability,
                         and Public Access

Status of this Memo

 This memo provides information for the Internet community.  It does
 not specify an Internet standard of any kind.  Distribution of this
 memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

 Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  All Rights Reserved.


 This memo describes various internal workings of the Unicode
 Consortium for the benefit of participants in the IETF.  It is
 intended solely for informational purposes.  Included are discussions
 of how the decision-making bodies of the Consortium work and their
 procedures, as well as information on public access to the character
 encoding & standardization processes.

1. Introduction

 This memo describes various internal workings of the Unicode
 Consortium for the benefit of participants in the IETF.  It is
 intended solely for informational purposes.  Included are discussions
 of how the decision-making bodies of the Consortium work and their
 procedures, as well as information on public access to the character
 encoding & standardization processes.

2. About The Unicode Consortium

 The Unicode Consortium is a corporation.  Legally speaking, it is a
 "California Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporation", organized under
 section 501 C(6) of the Internal Revenue Service Code of the United
 States.  As such, it is a "business league" not focussed on profiting
 by sales or production of goods and services, but neither is it
 formally a "charitable" organization.  It is an alliance of member
 companies whose purpose is to "extend, maintain, and promote the
 Unicode Standard".  To this end, the Consortium keeps a small office,
 a few editorial and technical staff, World Wide Web presence, and
 mail list presence.

McGowan Informational [Page 1] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 The corporation is presided over by a Board of Directors who meet
 annually.  The Board is comprised of individuals who are elected
 annually by the full members for three-year terms.  The Board
 appoints Officers of the corporation to run the daily operations.
 Membership in the Consortium is open to "all corporations, other
 business entities, governmental agencies, not-for-profit
 organizations and academic institutions" who support the Consortium's
 purpose.  Formally, one class of voting membership is recognized, and
 dues-paying members are typically for-profit corporations, research
 and educational institutions, or national governments.  Each such
 full member sends representatives to meetings of the Unicode
 Technical Committee (see below), as well as to a brief annual
 Membership meeting.

3. The Unicode Technical Committee

 The Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) is the technical decision
 making body of the Consortium.  The UTC inherited the work and prior
 decisions of the Unicode Working Group (UWG) that was active prior to
 formation of the Consortium in January 1991.
 Formally, the UTC is a technical body instituted by resolution of the
 board of directors.  Each member appoints one principal and one or
 two alternate representatives to the UTC.  UTC representatives
 frequently do, but need not, act as the ordinary member
 representatives for the purposes of the annual meeting.
 The UTC is presided over by a Chair and Vice-Chair, appointed by the
 Board of Directors for an unspecified term of service.
 The UTC meets 4 to 5 times a year to discuss proposals, additions,
 and various other technical topics.  Each meeting lasts 3 to 4 full
 days.  Meetings are held in locations decided upon by the membership,
 frequently in the San Francisco Bay Area.  There is no fee for
 participation in UTC meetings.  Agendas for meetings are not
 generally posted to any public forum, but meeting dates, locations,
 and logistics are posted well in advance on the "Unicode Calendar of
 Events" web page.
 At the discretion of the UTC chair, meetings are open to
 participation of member and liaison organizations, and to observation
 by others.  The minutes of meetings are also posted publicly on the
 "UTC Minutes" page of the Unicode Web site.
 All UTC meetings are held jointly with the INCITS Technical Committee
 L2, the body responsible for Character Code standards in the United
 States.  They constitute "ad hoc" meetings of the L2 body and are

McGowan Informational [Page 2] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 usually followed by a full meeting of the L2 committee.  Further
 information on L2 is available on the official INCITS web page.

4. Unicode Technical Committee Procedures

 The formal procedures of the UTC are publicly available in a document
 entitled "UTC Procedures", available from the Consortium, and on the
 Unicode web site.
 Despite the invocation of Robert's Rules of Order, UTC meetings are
 conducted with relative informality in view of the highly technical
 nature of most discussions.  Meetings focus on items from a technical
 agenda organized and published by the UTC Chair prior to the meeting.
 Technical items are usually proposals in one of the following
    1. Addition of new characters (whole scripts, additions to
       existing scripts, or other characters)
    2. Preparation and Editing of Technical Reports and Standards
    3. Changes in the semantics of specific characters
    4. Extensions to the encoding architecture and forms of use
 Note: There may also be changes to the architecture, character
 properties, or semantics.  Such changes are rare, and are always
 constrained by the "Unicode Stability Policies" posted on the Unicode
 web site.  Significant changes are undertaken in consultation with
 liaison organizations, such as W3C and IETF, which have standards
 that may be affected by such changes.  See sections 5 and 6 below.
 Typical outputs of the UTC are:
    1. The Unicode Standard, major and minor versions (including the
       Unicode Character Database)
    2. Unicode Technical Reports
    3. Stand-alone Unicode Technical Standards
    4. Formal resolutions
    5. Liaison statements and instructions to the Unicode liaisons to
       other organizations.

McGowan Informational [Page 3] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 For each technical item on the meeting agenda, the general process is
 as follows:
    1. Introduction by the topic sponsor
    2. Proposals and discussion
    3. Consensus statements or formal motions
    4. Assignment of formal actions to implement decisions

5. Unicode Technical Committee Motions

 Technical topics of any complexity never proceed from initial
 proposal to final ratification or adoption into the standard in the
 course of one UTC meeting.  The UTC members and presiding officers
 are aware that technical changes to the standard have broad
 consequences to other standards, implementers, and end-users of the
 standard.  Input from other organizations and experts is often vital
 to the understanding of various proposals and for successful adoption
 into the standard.
 Technical topics are decided in UTC through the use of formal
 motions, either taken in meetings, or by means of thirty-day letter
 ballots.  Formal UTC motions are of two types:
    1. Simple motions
    2. Precedents
 Simple motions may pass with a simple majority constituting more than
 50 percent of the qualified voting members; or by a special majority
 constituting two-thirds or more of the qualified voting members.
 Precedents are defined, according to the UTC Procedures as either
    (A) an existing Unicode Policy, or
    (B) an explicit precedent.
 Precedents must be passed or overturned by a special majority.
 Examples of implicit precedents include:
    1. Publication of a character in the standard
    2. Published normative character properties

McGowan Informational [Page 4] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

    3. Algorithms required for formal conformance
 An Explicit Precedent is a policy, procedure, encoding, algorithm, or
 other item that is established by a separate motion saying (in
 effect) that a particular prior motion establishes a precedent.
 A proposal may be passed either by a formal motion and vote, or by
 consensus.  If there is broad agreement as to the proposal, and no
 member wishes to force a vote, then the proposal passes by consensus
 and is recorded as such in the minutes.

6. Unicode Consortium Policies

 Because the Unicode Standard is continually evolving in an attempt to
 reach the ideal of encoding "all the world's scripts", new characters
 will constantly be added.  In this sense, the standard is unstable:
 in the standard's useful lifetime, there may never be a final point
 at which no more characters are added.  Realizing this, the
 Consortium has adopted certain policies to promote and maintain
 stability of the characters that are already encoded, as well as
 laying out a Roadmap to future encodings.
 The overall policies of the Consortium with regard to encoding
 stability, as well as other issues such as privacy, are published on
 a "Unicode Consortium Policies" web page.  Deliberations and encoding
 proposals in the UTC are bound by these policies.
 The general effect of the stability policies may be stated in this
 way: once a character is encoded, it will not be moved or removed and
 its name will not be changed.  Any of those actions has the potential
 for causing obsolescence of data, and they are not permitted.  The
 canonical combining class and decompositions of characters will not
 be changed in any way that affects normalization.  In this sense,
 normalization, such as that used for International Domain Naming and
 "early normalization" for use on the World Wide Web, is fixed and
 stable for every character at the time that character is encoded.
 (Any changes that are undertaken because of outright errors in
 properties or decompositions are dealt with by means of an adjunct
 data file so that normalization stability can still be maintained by
 those who need it.)
 Once published, each version of the Unicode Standard is absolutely
 stable and will never be changed retroactively.  Implementations or
 specifications that refer to a specific version of the Unicode
 Standard can rely upon this stability.  If future versions of such
 implementations or specifications upgrade to a future version of the
 Unicode Standard, then some changes may be necessary.

McGowan Informational [Page 5] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 Property values of characters, such as directionality for the Unicode
 Bidi algorithm, may be changed between versions of the standard in
 some circumstances.  As less-well documented characters and scripts
 are encoded, the exact character properties and behavior may not be
 well known at the time the characters are first encoded.  As more
 experience is gathered in implementing the newly encoded characters,
 adjustments in the properties may become necessary.  This re-working
 is kept to a minimum.  New and old versions of the relevant property
 tables are made available on the Consortium's web site.
 Normative and some informative data about characters is kept in the
 Unicode Character Database (UCD).  The structure of many of these
 property values will not be changed.  Instead, when new properties
 are defined, the Consortium adds new files for these properties, so
 as not to affect the stability of existing implementations that use
 the values and properties defined in the existing formats and files.
 The latest version of the UCD is available on the Consortium web site
 via the "Unicode Data" heading.
 Note on data redistribution: Unlike the situation with IETF
 documents, some parts of the Unicode Character Database may have
 restrictions on their verbatim redistribution with source-code
 products.  Users should read the notices in files they intend to use
 in such products.  The information contained in the UCD may be freely
 used to create derivative works (such as programs, compressed data
 files, subroutines, data structures, etc.) that may be redistributed
 freely, but some files may not be redistributable verbatim.  Such
 restrictions on Unicode data files are never meant to prohibit or
 control the use of the data in products, but only to help ensure that
 users retrieve the latest official releases of data files when using
 the data in products.

7. UTC and ISO (WG2)

 The character repertoire, names, and general architecture of the
 Unicode Standard are identical to the parallel international standard
 ISO/IEC 10646.  ISO/IEC 10646 only contains a small fraction of the
 semantics, properties and implementation guidelines supplied by the
 Unicode Standard and associated technical standards and reports.
 Implementations conformant to Unicode are conformant to ISO/IEC
 ISO/IEC 10646 is maintained by the committee ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
 The WG2 committee is composed of national body representatives to
 ISO.  Details on the ISO organization may be found on the official
 web site of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

McGowan Informational [Page 6] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 Details and history of the relationship between ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2
 and Unicode, Inc. may be found in Appendix C of The Unicode Standard.
 (A PDF rendition of the most recent printed edition of the Unicode
 Standard can be found on the Unicode web site.)
 WG2 shares with UTC the policies regarding stability: WG2 neither
 removes characters nor changes their names once published.  Changes
 in both standards are closely tracked by the respective committees,
 and a very close working relationship is fostered to maintain
 synchronization between the standards.
 The Unicode Collation Algorithm (UCA) is one of a small set of other
 independent standards defined and maintained by UTC.  It is not,
 properly speaking, part of the Unicode Standard itself, but is
 separately defined in Unicode Technical Standard #10 (UTS #10).
 There is no conformance relationship between the two standards,
 except that conformance to a specific base version of the Unicode
 Standard (e.g., 4.0) is specified in a particular version of a UTS.
 The collation algorithm specified in UTS #10 is conformant to ISO/IEC
 14651, maintained by ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2, and the two organizations
 maintain a close relationship.  Beyond what is specified in ISO/IEC
 14651, the UCA contains additional constraints on collation,
 specifies additional options, and provides many more implementation

8. Process of Technical Changes to the Unicode Standard

 Changes to The Unicode Standard are of two types: architectural
 changes, and character additions.
 Most architectural changes do not affect ISO/IEC 10646, for example,
 the addition of various character properties to Unicode.  Those
 architectural changes that do affect both standards, such as
 additional UTF formats or allocation of planes, are very carefully
 coordinated by the committees.  As always, on the UTC side,
 architectural changes that establish precedents are carefully
 monitored and the above-described rules and procedures are followed.
 Additional characters for inclusion in the The Unicode Standard must
 be approved both by the UTC and by WG2.  Proposals for additional
 characters enter the standards process in one of several ways:
    1. a national body member of WG2
    2. a member company or associate of UTC
    3. directly from an individual "expert" contributor

McGowan Informational [Page 7] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 The two committees have jointly produced a "Proposal Summary Form"
 that is required to accompany all additional character proposals.
 This form may be found online at the WG2 web site, and on the Unicode
 web site along with information about "Submitting New Characters or
 Scripts".  Instructions for submitting proposals to UTC may likewise
 be found online.
 Often, submission of proposals to both committees (UTC and WG2) is
 simultaneous.  Members of UTC also frequently forward to WG2
 proposals that have been initially reviewed by UTC.
 In general, a proposal that is submitted to UTC before being
 submitted to WG2 passes through several stages:
    1. Initial presentation to UTC
    2. Review and re-drafting
    3. Forwarding to WG2 for consideration
    4. Re-drafting for technical changes
    5. Balloting for approval in UTC
    6. Re-forwarding and recommendation to WG2
    7. At least two rounds of international balloting in ISO
 About two years are required to complete this process.  Initial
 proposals most often do not include sufficient information or
 justification to be approved.  These are returned to the submitters
 with comments on how the proposal needs to be amended or extended.
 Repertoire addition proposals that are submitted to WG2 before being
 submitted to UTC are generally forwarded immediately to UTC through
 committee liaisons.  The crucial parts of the process (steps 5
 through 7 above) are never short-circuited.  A two-thirds majority in
 UTC is required for approval at step 5.
 Proposals for additional scripts are required to be coordinated with
 relevant user communities.  Often there are ad-hoc subcommittees of
 UTC or expert mail list participants who are responsible for actually
 drafting proposals, garnering community support, or representing user
 The rounds of international balloting in step 7 have participation
 both by UTC and WG2, though UTC does not directly vote in the ISO

McGowan Informational [Page 8] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 Occasionally a proposal approved by one body is considered too
 immature for approval by the other body, and may be blocked de-facto
 by either of the two.  Only after both bodies have approved the
 additional characters do they proceed to the rounds of international
 balloting.  (The first round is a draft international standard during
 which some changes may occur, the second round is final approval
 during which only editorial changes are made.)
 This process assures that proposals for additional characters are
 mature and stable by the time they appear in a final international

9. Public Access to the Character Encoding Process

 While Unicode, Inc. is a membership organization, and the final say
 in technical matters rests with UTC, the process is quite open to
 public input and scrutiny of processes and proposals.  There are many
 influential individual experts and industry groups who are not
 formally members, but whose input to the process is taken seriously
 by UTC.
 Internally, UTC maintains a mail list called the "Unicore" list,
 which carries traffic related to meetings, technical content of the
 standard, and so forth.  Members of the list are UTC representatives;
 employees and staff of member organizations (such as the Research
 Libraries Group); individual liaisons to and from other standards
 bodies (such as WG2 and IETF); and invited experts from institutions
 such as the Library of Congress and some universities.  Subscription
 to the list for external individuals is subject to "sponsorship" by
 the corporate officers.
 Unicode, Inc. also maintains a public discussion list called the
 "Unicode" list.  Subscription is open to anyone, and proceedings of
 the "Unicode" mail list are publicly archived.  Details are on the
 Consortium web site under the "Mail Lists" heading.
 Technical proposals for changes to the standard are posted to both of
 these mail lists on a regular basis.  Discussion on the public list
 may result in a written proposal being generated for a later UTC
 meeting.  Technical issues and other standardization "events" of any
 significance, such as beta releases and availability of draft
 documents, are announced and then discussed in this public forum,
 well before standardization is finalized.  From time to time, the UTC
 also publishes on the Consortium web site "Public Review Issues" to
 gather feedback and generate discussion of specific proposals whose
 impact may be unclear, or for which sufficiently broad review may not
 yet have been brought to the UTC deliberations.

McGowan Informational [Page 9] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

 Anyone may make a character encoding or architectural proposal to
 UTC.  Membership in the organization is not required to submit a
 proposal.  To be taken seriously, the proposal must be framed in a
 substantial way, and be accompanied by sufficient documentation to
 warrant discussion.  Examples of proposals are easily available by
 following links from the "Proposed Characters" and "Roadmaps"
 headings on the Unicode web site.  Guidelines for proposals are also
 available under the heading "Submitting Proposals".
 In general, proposals are publicly aired on the "Unicode" mail list,
 sometimes for a long period, prior to formal submission.  Generally
 this is of benefit to the proposer as it tends to reduce the number
 of times the proposal is sent back for clarification or with requests
 for additional information.  Once a proposal reaches the stage of
 being ready for discussion by UTC, the proposer will have received
 contact through the public mail list with one or more UTC members
 willing to explain or defend it in a UTC meeting.

10. Acknowledgements

 Thanks to Mark Davis, Simon Josefsson, and Ken Whistler for their
 extensive review and feedback on previous versions of this document.

11. Security Considerations

 This memo describes the operational procedures of an organization;
 the procedures themselves have no consequences for Internet Security.

12. Author's Address

 Rick McGowan
 c/o The Unicode Consortium
 P.O. Box 391476
 Mountain View, CA 94039-1476
 Phone:   +1-650-693-3921

McGowan Informational [Page 10] RFC 3718 Internal Workings of the Unicode Consortium February 2004

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 Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2004).  This document is subject
 to the rights, licenses and restrictions contained in BCP 78 and
 except as set forth therein, the authors retain all their rights.
 This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

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McGowan Informational [Page 11]

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