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Unicode, in intent, encodes the underlying characters—graphemes and grapheme-like units—rather than the variant glyphs (renderings) for such characters. In the case of Chinese characters, this sometimes leads to controversies over distinguishing the underlying character from its variant glyphs (see Han unification).
In text processing, Unicode takes the role of providing a unique code point—a number, not a glyph—for each character. In other words, Unicode represents a character in an abstract way and leaves the visual rendering (size, shape, font, or style) to other software, such as a web browser or word processor. This simple aim becomes complicated, however, because of concessions made by Unicode's designers in the hope of encouraging a more rapid adoption of Unicode.
The first 256 code points were made identical to the content of ISO-8859-1 so as to make it trivial to convert existing western text. Many essentially identical characters were encoded multiple times at different code points to preserve distinctions used by legacy encodings and therefore, allow conversion from those encodings to Unicode (and back) without losing any information. For example, the "fullwidth forms" section of code points encompasses a full Latin alphabet that is separate from the main Latin alphabet section because in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) fonts, these Latin characters are rendered at the same width as CJK characters, rather than at half the width. For other examples, see duplicate characters in Unicode.