Standard Compression Scheme for Unicode

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The Standard Compression Scheme for Unicode (SCSU) is a Unicode Technical Standard to reduce the number of bytes needed to represent text, especially if that text uses mostly characters from a small number of Unicode blocks. It does so by dynamically mapping the values in the range 128-255 to blocks of 128 characters. Since most alphabets are in 128 contiguous Unicode codepoints, this allows for 1 byte per character (plus overhead) encoding for many text files. SCSU will also switch to UTF-16 internally to handle non-alphabetic languages.

SCSU is not a resounding success. Few places need to compress enough Unicode text to make it worth using a poorly supported compression scheme. Treated purely as a compression format, it's inferior to most commonly used compression programs for texts over a few kilobytes. It can be used as a text encoding, but it's very hard to handle internally, and the percentage savings between SCSU and UTF-16 or UTF-8 drops after external compression, dramatically in the case of bzip2 and other modern compression schemes. It does have the advantage that SCSU can compress texts that are only a few characters long, whereas most full-scale compressors need a few kilobytes of data to overcome the overhead.

Reuters, the organization that floated the first draft of SCSU, is believed to use SCSU internally.

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