Starting today you can “adopt” a letter, number, symbol, or emoji as part of an effort to help computers recognize and process more languages from around the world. This fundraising drive is organized by the non-profit group Unicode and is aimed at supporting what the organization terms as the “digitally disadvantaged” living languages.

The Unicode Consortium was started in 1991 and has a mission to preserve the languages of the world in a digital format. Mark Davis, the group’s president and the chief international architect at Google, said the effort started by encoding the alphabets of all the modern languages that Unicode could handle at the time. To date, it has gone through 130 language scripts, including the more popular languages, like Chinese, Arabic, and English.

But what about the 30 or so scripts that aren’t used as frequently anymore — like Cherokee — or even historic ones, like hieroglyphics? Unicode still needs to go through them and create a way for computers to understand them — it’s the best way to protect them and ensure that they live on. To help fund this effort, Davis’ team has come up with Unicode’s first-ever campaign drive.

“We’re looking to supply an alternative form of funding mechanism that lets [Unicode] address some of these languages that don’t see as much use right now and preserve the language, its heritage, and make them more viable on computers,” Davis told VentureBeat in a phone interview.

If you’d like to support the organization’s mission, you can adopt a character for one year from among one of three sponsorship tiers — bronze, silver, and gold — the price starts at $100 and tops out at $5,000. Do you fancy a favorite letter? Number? Symbol? Want to “own” a smiley face emoji or the dog one? You can also opt for something like the cloud emoji, except that one was picked up at the gold level by IBM, according to Davis (sorry, Salesforce).

Don’t worry about running out of characters to sponsor, as there are at least 120,000 of them to choose from. You’ll receive a certificate with each sponsorship level, but if you choose the silver or gold level, Unicode will also send you a thank you gift.

Davis hasn’t set a specific fundraising goal yet, and the campaign doesn’t have a time limit. He said that it will depend on how well the public receives this campaign, but also admitted that he’s not expecting a slew of cash coming into Unicode’s coffers either.

“What we hope to do is address those people who are interested in supporting the end goals [of Unicode] and the digital heritage of the world, but give them a fun way to do it,” he said.


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