When you convert temperature readings from Celsius to Fahrenheit or money from Japanese yen to U.S. dollars, the original values remain the same. They are just represented in a different form.
In the world of computers, encoding works in the same way. The computer converts data from one form to another. It does this to save on storage space or make transmission more efficient.
One example of encoding is when you convert a huge .WAV audio file to a tiny .MP3 file that you can easily send to a friend via email. The files are encoded in different formats but will play the same song.
Read More about “Encoding”
What Is the Purpose of Encoding?
The primary purpose of encoding is to make data safely and adequately consumable by different users using various systems. The idea is to make the data readable and available to all possible end-users. Encoding can be likened to effectively translating text from Hebrew, for instance, to English, making the information digestible for more users.
Without character encoding, a website will display text a lot differently than intended. Improper encoding spoils text readability, which may also result in search engines failing to display data correctly or machines to process inputs incorrectly.
What Are the Different Types of Encoding Standards?
We listed a few of the most common encoding standards in use today.
American Standard Code for Information Interchange
The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) is the most commonly used language by computers for text files. It was developed by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It represents alphabetic characters (both lowercase and uppercase), numerals, symbols, and punctuation marks using seven-bit binary numbers (strings made up of combinations of seven 0s or 1s). ASCII has 128 characters.
The Unicode standard is a universal character set that allows writing in most languages on computers. It is categorized into 8-, 16-, and 32-bit character sets, amounting to over a billion characters.
Uniform resource locator (URL) encoding, also known as “percent encoding,” is often done when some characters can’t be included in URLs. URL encoding thus allows unrecognized ASCII characters to be represented in the Unicode format so all computers can read them.
Before, Base64 was only used to represent binary data in printable characters. It is commonly used in basic HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) authentication when encoding user credentials. It is also used to encode email attachments to allow their transmission over the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and send binary data within cookies to make it less readable to tamperers.
Most mail systems can’t deal with binary data. Without Base64 encoding, images or other files sent become corrupted. Computers deal with data in bytes, making ASCII unsuitable for transmission.
As we move forward in the digital era, encoding has become an essential task for most software and web developers to ensure that their creations are useful for consumers.