The Unicode Consortium and the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 2/WG 2 jointly collaborate on the list of the characters in the Universal Coded Character Set. The Universal Coded Character Set, most commonly called the Universal Character Set (abbr. UCS, official designation: ISO/IEC 10646), is an international standard to map characters, discrete symbols used in natural language, mathematics, music, and other domains, to unique machine-readable data values. By creating this mapping, the UCS enables computer software vendors to interoperate, and transmit—interchange—UCS-encoded text strings from one to another. Because it is a universal map, it can be used to represent multiple languages at the same time. This avoids the confusion of using multiple legacy character encodings, which can result in the same sequence of codes having multiple interpretations depending on the character encoding in use, resulting in mojibake if the wrong one is chosen.
UCS has a potential capacity of over 1 million characters. Each UCS character is abstractly represented by a code point, an integer between 0 and 1,114,111 (1,114,112 = 220 + 216 or 17 × 216 = 0x110000 code points), used to represent each character within the internal logic of text processing software. As of Unicode 15.1, released in September 2023, 293,792 (26%) of these code points are allocated, 149,878 (13%) have been assigned characters, 137,468 (12%) are reserved for private use, 2,048 are used to enable the mechanism of surrogates, and 66 are designated as noncharacters, leaving the remaining 820,320 (74%) unallocated. The number of encoded characters is made up as follows:
ISO maintains the basic mapping of characters from character name to code point. Often, the terms character and code point will be used interchangeably. However, when a distinction is made, a code point refers to the integer of the character: what one might think of as its address. Meanwhile, a character in ISO/IEC 10646 includes the combination of the code point and its name, Unicode adds many other useful properties to the character set, such as block, category, script, and directionality.
In addition to the UCS, the supplementary Unicode Standard, (not a joint project with ISO, but rather a publication of the Unicode Consortium,) provides other implementation details such as: