Here’s my probably wrong and definitely incomplete takeaway on text encoding. Instead of copy pasting decode / encode snippets from Stack Overflow I promise to get to the bottom of the encoding of the next text I scrape or import into Python.
First there was ASCII
It only had 128 characters and is only really useful for typing English (non-accented, ‘Latin Alphabet’) text (in green text on a black screen). There were several expansions that were largely localized for other languages but it wasn’t until the invention of…
Unicode made it possible to type all of the world’s languages
…and then some (Klingon, apparently). It also made it possible to add emoji 🎉. The complication is that they came up with a few ways to compress
unicode and so…
UTF-8 is the current gold standard
UTF-8 is the best implementation of Unicode. Sort of a square is a rectangle but a rectangle isn’t a square-type situation
To get the real story behind encoding, watch Ned Batchelder’s great talk from Pycon 2012 (Slides here). And for THE definitive article on the subject, head to Joel Spolsky’s blog post about it. And if I’ve said anything incorrect, please correct me, I don’t want to put bad information out into the world.