The Economist explains: What is ASCII? | The Economist: " . . . . ASCII, too, has its flaws. In particular it does not support the various characters required in non-English languages. As a result, several variations of ASCII emerged to support accents and non-Roman characters. To address these problems an entirely new standard, Unicode, was devised starting in the late 1980s. It uses between 8 and 32 bits to represent each character, theoretically providing support for 4.3 billion unique characters, symbols or glyphs—though in practice it is limited to 1.1m symbols, of which more than 100,000 have so far been defined, including the cuneiform characters of Sargon's time. In 2007 the dominant form of Unicode (called UTF-8) surpassed American ASCII and a Western European variant as the most widely used encoding on the web, and UTF-8 is now used on more than 75% of web pages. As it celebrates its 50th birthday, then, ASCII is in decline, as it is gradually replaced by Unicode. But in a sense it lives on: the first 128 characters of Unicode precisely match those of ASCII, providing backwards compatibility, while also preserving aspects of even older codes in digital amber."