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Work on the ACP Web Services has led to some startling discoveries. Follow along for the ride.

  1. Select the following line.


  2. Go to your Services menu and pick 'Open URL in Safari'.

  3. Watch what Google puts in the search box.

  4. Now compare that with Safari's URL.


    What you see in the URL are escaped UTF-8 octets: coding in UTF-8 is a rocket science - it's also the way you get Chinese to Google and other places.

  5. Watch to search for something in Thailand?


    You get the idea.

  6. But now try the IMDb:


    How did that work out?

  7. IMDb is owned by Amazon. Now see what Amazon does.


  8. We'll give the IMDb an easier time of it now:


    And notice what the IMDb changed the URL to:


    (And you can see the original correct UTF-8 code before the IMDb changes it if you're fast.)

    What's %E9?

    That's the actual hexadecimal representation of é - but it's not UTF-8.

    The IMDb can't handle Chinese.

  9. But hey, that's still better than the parent company Amazon: Jeff can't even take the é:


  10. And notice the URL:


    The '%C3%A9' is authentic UTF-8: it's just that Amazon can't understand it.

    Amazon looks at the octets the same way the IMDb does, but the IMDb 'catches' them and Amazon doesn't: Amazon just gets confused.

    Try Amazon UK for another original approach:


UTF-8 makes Unicode web communication possible. Unicode is a consortium of a lot of important companies. Apple are members. Apple support for Unicode is almost universal. Everything in OS X is in Unicode. And Safari automatically transforms Unicode strings into UTF-8 format for the web.

Support for Unicode is not as good as it could be. Many major sites have 'wing-it' CGI modules which figure one way or another to deal with 'special characters', and it all works fine internally - but not when someone surfs in from far away.

It's fun to search for things in Chinese - even if you haven't a clue what you're looking at. The web - and computer science both - are growing up.

We can only hope the webmeisters out there take a look-see at the UTF-8 and Unicode standards and start to get with it.

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