As obvious an oversight as it could be, attempting to type the bitcoin symbol via text, email, or on webpages is not the easiest thing. However, after a successful vote at the latest Unicode meeting, users will be able to easily type the character.
“The Bitcoin symbol is clearly popular enough that it should be in Unicode,” said Ken Shirriff, the author of the proposal, in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine. “Getting the Bitcoin symbol into the Unicode standard was clearly the right thing for Unicode and the right thing for the Bitcoin community.”
Shirriff, who showed how one could mine for bitcoin with pencil and paper or with a 55 year old mainframe, felt that it was a huge oversight to not have the symbol part of Unicode. Since he had experience getting another symbol approved by Unicode, “I figured I needed to make this happen.”
In his proposal, he wrote, “There is substantial demand for [Bitcoin Symbol] to be added to Unicode, the user community supports adding the sign to Unicode and its addition would fill a significant gap in Unicode’s currency symbols. This proposal has the support of the Bitcoin Foundation as well as other Bitcoin organizations, companies and developers.”
This wasn’t his first time getting a new symbol added to Unicode. “I have been helping restore an IBM mainframe from the 1960s and it uses a strange character set (BCDIC). When I tried to write about the computer, I discovered that one symbol (the group mark symbol) was missing from Unicode. I figured I’d try to get that character added to Unicode, so I followed the steps that the power symbol people suggested, wrote up a proposal, and got the group mark symbol added to Unicode.”
Shirriff explained that part of the process was showing the symbol used in “running text. “People on reddit.com/r/bitcoin and bitcointalk.org were very helpful and gave me a ton of examples, everything from web pages to research papers,” he said. Originally, the Bitcoin Foundation was pushing to get the symbol added to Unicode, but after a year, there had been little progress. Shirriff submitted the proposal at the beginning of the month and gained acceptance last night.
“The Unicode 9.0 standard will come out in June, so the Bitcoin symbol should be in that version,” Shirriff said, though he cautioned that font support could take longer. Between the next bitcoin halving and this symbol, it seems like Summer of 2016 should be a very exciting time.
Jacob Donnelly is a full-time product manager and freelance journalist covering stocks, business and bitcoin. He runs a weekly digital currency and blockchain newsletter called Crypto Brief.