I've been following this debate with some interest.  Alas, since my 
unicode/m17n experience is quite limited, I don't have a strong opinion 
in the matter.

But the following caught my eye:

Austin Ziegler wrote:
> [...] Ruby *will* distinguish between a String without
> an encoding and a String with an encoding. You're basing your opposition
> to tomorrow's behaviour based on today's (known bad) behaviour. 

Part of the problem is that we are basing our discussions on 
descriptions of what will happen in the future, but that makes it 
difficult to understand the issues involved without real code.

What I would like to see is prototype implementations of both 
approaches, and see the differences in how they effect the code.  I'm 
more interested in anwering questions like "How do I safely concatenate 
strings with potentially different encodings" and "How do I do I/O with 
encoded strings" rather than addressing efficiency questions.  In other 
words, how do the different approaches effect the way I write code.

I think it would be a great idea to prototype these ideas in real code 
to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each.

-- Jim Weirich

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