What is UTF-8?

UTF-8 is a variable-width encoding that can represent every character in the Unicode character set. It was designed for backward compatibility with ASCII and to avoid the complications of endianness and byte order marks in UTF-16 and UTF-32.

UTF-8 has become the dominant character encoding for the World-Wide Web, accounting for more than half of all Web pages. The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) requires all Internet protocols to identify the encoding used for character data, and the supported character encodings must include UTF-8. The Internet Mail Consortium (IMC) recommends that all e-mail programs be able to display and create mail using UTF-8. UTF-8 is also increasingly being used as the default character encoding in operating systems, programming languages, APIs, and software applications.

UTF-8 encodes each of the 1,112,064 code points in the Unicode character set using one to four 8-bit bytes (termed "octets" in the Unicode Standard). Code points with lower numerical values (i.e. earlier code positions in the Unicode character set, which tend to occur more frequently in practice) are encoded using fewer bytes. The first 128 characters of Unicode, which correspond one-to-one with ASCII, are encoded using a single octet with the same binary value as ASCII, making valid ASCII text valid UTF-8-encoded Unicode as well.

The information provided here is taken from Wikipedia