Bitcoin 'B' Approved By Computer Text Standards Body

(@mpmcsweeney) | Published on November 4, 2015 at 19:15 BST
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A proposal to add the bitcoin “B” to the Unicode computing character standard was accepted this week.

Submitted by tech blogger and pencil-and-paper bitcoin miner Ken Shirriff, the proposal was approved during a quarterly meeting held by the Unicode Consortium, the organization backing the decades-old computing standard.

Members of the Consortium include Apple, Google, Huawei, Microsoft, Oracle and a variety of other institutional and individual contributors. The organization was not immediately available for comment when reached.

Shirriff’s 14-page proposal was the second to be considered by the Unicode Committee, and brings to a close a process that began in fits and starts as far back as 2011.

Submitted in March of that year, the first proposal, entered by Sander van Galoven of the Netherlands, was ultimately turned down by the committee.

According to committee minutes published at the time, the 2011 proposal was rejected on the grounds "that the use of the bitcoin symbol in (running) text" had not been demonstrated and because Bitcoin.org was using the symbol as a logo.

In 2014, the Bitcoin Foundation began putting together a working group to develop a Unicode proposal, though no submission developed as a result of that process. The Foundation would later endorse Shirriff’s proposal.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Shirriff said that he saw a need for a submission that drew from an understanding of how exactly the Unicode Consortium goes about approving proposals, explaining:

"It seemed that nobody else in the bitcoin community really understood the Unicode process and because I had gone through it earlier with a totally unrelated character, I had some familiarity with how it worked. So I decided I should just do it myself.”

He cited contributions from volunteers on the bitcoin subreddit as well as the Bitcoin Talk forum for providing sufficient evidence to back the proposal, citing the need to establish its common use as a text icon. He also pointed to past experience with the Unicode Committee in getting a symbol from an obscure character set approved as a result of restoration work on a 1960s IBM mainframe.

From here, the approved proposal is set to be enshrined in a future Unicode standard release, meaning that eventually the symbol can be used on almost any computer.

The Consortium’s latest version, Unicode 9, is scheduled to be published sometime next year.

Bitcoin symbol image via Shutterstock

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