A byte order mark (BOM) is a sequence of bytes used to indicate the Unicode encoding style of a text file. The encoding dictates how text is serialized into a sequence of bytes. If the least significant byte is placed in the initial position, this is referred to as "little-endian," whereas if the most significant byte is placed in the initial position, the method is known as "big-endian."
In addition to indicating the byte order, a BOM can also be used as a file signature to identify the encoding of a text file. The UTF-8 file signature (commonly also referred to as a "BOM") identifies the encoding format rather than the byte order of the document. UTF-8 is a linear sequence of bytes (not a sequence of 2-byte or 4-byte units where the byte order is important as in UTF-16 and UTF-32). The following table shows the byte-order marks for various encodings.
|Byte Order Mark (BOM)
|EF BB BF
|00 00 FE FF
|FF FE 00 00
BOM use is optional. If used, it must be at the very beginning of the text. The BOM gives the producer of the text a way to describe the encoding such as UTF-8 or UTF-16, and in the case of UTF-16 and UTF-32, its endianness. The BOM is important for text interchange, when files move between systems that use different byte orders or different encodings, rather than in normal text handling in a closed environment.
As UTF-8 has become the most common text encoding,
EFBBBF (shown here as three hexadecimal values) is the most commonly occurring BOM form, also known as the UTF-8 signature. HTML5 browsers are required to recognize the UTF-8 BOM and use it to detect the encoding of the page. Software may alternatively recognize UTF-8 encoding by looking for bytes with the high order bit set (values
0xFF) followed by bytes that define valid UTF-8 sequences.
The Unicode Standard neither requires nor recommends the use of the BOM for UTF-8, but warns that it may be encountered at the start of a file.
Most modern software applications recognize a BOM and may insert it when saving a text file with UTF encoding. The presence of the UTF-8 BOM may cause problems with some software, especially legacy software not designed to handle UTF-8, in which case it may appear as the characters "ï»¿".
References[change | change source]
- "Byte order mark - Globalization | Microsoft Learn". Retrieved 2023-09-25.
- "The byte-order mark (BOM) in HTML". www.w3.org. Retrieved 2019-10-24.
- "The Unicode Standard – Chapter 2" (PDF). p. 30.