UTF-8 (UCS Transformation Format 8) is the World Wide Web's most common character encoding. Each character is represented by one to four bytes. UTF-8 is backward-compatible with ASCII and can represent any standard Unicode character.
The first 128 UTF-8 characters precisely match the first 128 ASCII characters (numbered 0-127), meaning that existing ASCII text is already valid UTF-8. All other characters use two to four bytes. Each byte has some bits reserved for encoding purposes. Since non-ASCII characters require more than one byte for storage, they run the risk of being corrupted if the bytes are separated and not recombined.
- UTF-8 on Wikipedia
- FAQ about UTF-8 on Unicode website