Unicode is only for plaintext

I wanted to get the Feed icon () into Unicode. The Unicode Consortium has a page about proposals. It notes:

Before proceeding, ... Consult ... the Archive of Nonapproval Notices to see if the character has already been considered but was disapproved for some reason.

One of these rejections is:


Proposals to encode a character for the “external link sign”, which is often seen as a graphic element indicating a link to a document located external to the website where the page using the external link sign resides. (See L2/06-268, L2/12-143, L2/12-169.)

The external link image () is like the feed icon: it’s an image used in hyperlinks on webpages, to hint something about the content it links to. Here’s the Unicode Consortium’s reason for rejection:

Disposition: The UTC rejected the proposals to add “external link sign”, most recently in L2/12-169. It is unclear that the entity in question is actually an element of plain text, given the inevitable connection to its function in linking to other documents, and thus its coexistence with markup for links.

Furthermore, the existing widespread practice of representing this sign on web pages using images (often specified via CSS styles) would be unlikely to benefit from attempting to encode a character for this image.

These reasons for rejection would apply equally to the feed icon. The rejection of the external link sets a precedent for the rejection of the feed icon. Unicode decisions can be based on such precedents; the non-approval page says:

Occasionally, however, the UTC makes a formal decision to reject a character proposal, for a variety of architectural reasons, or because of other serious defects in the proposal. Such formal decisions result in a notice of non-approval posted on this page, and signal the intent of the UTC not to pursue further work on that proposal. In some instances such a formal decision is also designated by the UTC as constituting a precedent (see Section 10.6.2, “Precedents” in the UTC Procedures); any precedent would require a special majority in the UTC to be reconsidered for a change of decision at a later time. Any notices of non-approval which also constitute UTC precedents are explicitly identified as such in this archive.

I’m therefore deciding not to continue with the proposal of a Unicode feed icon. I don’t particularly agree with the Consortium’s insistence on “plaintext”, but I don’t fancy the chances of success, considering the close comparison with the external link icon.

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