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MySQL 5.5 Reference Manual  /  ...  /  The utf16 Character Set (UTF-16 Unicode Encoding) The utf16 Character Set (UTF-16 Unicode Encoding)

The utf16 character set is the ucs2 character set with an extension that enables encoding of supplementary characters:

  • For a BMP character, utf16 and ucs2 have identical storage characteristics: same code values, same encoding, same length.

  • For a supplementary character, utf16 has a special sequence for representing the character using 32 bits. This is called the surrogate mechanism: For a number greater than 0xffff, take 10 bits and add them to 0xd800 and put them in the first 16-bit word, take 10 more bits and add them to 0xdc00 and put them in the next 16-bit word. Consequently, all supplementary characters require 32 bits, where the first 16 bits are a number between 0xd800 and 0xdbff, and the last 16 bits are a number between 0xdc00 and 0xdfff. Examples are in Section 15.5 Surrogates Area of the Unicode 4.0 document.

Because utf16 supports surrogates and ucs2 does not, there is a validity check that applies only in utf16: You cannot insert a top surrogate without a bottom surrogate, or vice versa. For example:

INSERT INTO t (ucs2_column) VALUES (0xd800); /* legal */
INSERT INTO t (utf16_column)VALUES (0xd800); /* illegal */

There is no validity check for characters that are technically valid but are not true Unicode (that is, characters that Unicode considers to be unassigned code points or private use characters or even illegals like 0xffff). For example, since U+F8FF is the Apple Logo, this is legal:

INSERT INTO t (utf16_column)VALUES (0xf8ff); /* legal */

Such characters cannot be expected to mean the same thing to everyone.

Because MySQL must allow for the worst case (that one character requires four bytes) the maximum length of a utf16 column or index is only half of the maximum length for a ucs2 column or index. For example, the maximum length of a MEMORY table index key is 3072 bytes, so these statements create tables with the longest permitted indexes for ucs2 and utf16 columns:

CREATE INDEX i ON tf (s1);
CREATE INDEX i ON tg (s1);

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