10.7. Unicode Support

MySQL 5.0 supports two character sets for storing Unicode data:

In UCS-2 (binary Unicode representation), every character is represented by a two-byte Unicode code with the most significant byte first. For example: LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A has the code 0x0041 and it is stored as a two-byte sequence: 0x00 0x41. CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER YERU (Unicode 0x044B) is stored as a two-byte sequence: 0x04 0x4B. For Unicode characters and their codes, please refer to the Unicode Home Page.

Currently, UCS-2 cannot be used as a client character set, which means that SET NAMES 'ucs2' does not work.

The UTF-8 character set (transform Unicode representation) is an alternative way to store Unicode data. It is implemented according to RFC 3629. The idea of the UTF-8 character set is that various Unicode characters are encoded using byte sequences of different lengths:

RFC 3629 describes encoding sequences that take from one to four bytes. Currently, MySQL support for UTF-8 does not include four-byte sequences. (An older standard for UTF-8 encoding is given by RFC 2279, which describes UTF-8 sequences that take from one to six bytes. RFC 3629 renders RFC 2279 obsolete; for this reason, sequences with five and six bytes are no longer used.)

Tip: To save space with UTF-8, use VARCHAR instead of CHAR. Otherwise, MySQL must reserve three bytes for each character in a CHAR CHARACTER SET utf8 column because that is the maximum possible length. For example, MySQL must reserve 30 bytes for a CHAR(10) CHARACTER SET utf8 column.