Escape Sequences

1994 proposed named escape sequences vs. unicode characters
Original Unicode Symbol
&audio; 1F509 🔉
&cd.rom; 1F4BF 💿
&clock; 1F557 🕗
&diskette; 1F4BE 💾
&display; 1F4BB 💻
&document; 1F4C4 📄
&fax; 1F4E0 📠
&folder; 1F4C1 📁
&home; 1F3E0 🏠
&index; 1F4C7 📇
&keyboard; 2328
&mail; 1F4E7 📧
&; 1F4E5 📥
&mail.out; 1F4E4 📤
&next; 2398
&notebook; 1F4D3 📓
&previous; 2397
&printer; 2399
&sadsmiley; 1F61E 😞
&smiley; 1F604 😄
&telephone; 1F4DE 📞
&text.document; 1F4DD 📝
&trash; 267B

One early proposal to the HTML standard was by Bert Bos to have named entities for often used icons (folders and such). The list of the proposed escape sequences was closely modelled to the icon set of the day: hypercard, gopher, etc.

Some time ago there was discussion on this list about defining a set of standard icons for things like Gopher types, “home” buttons, etc.
The discussion didn’t reach a conclusion. Below is a proposal.
Reactions please! The text and two sets of example icons are also available at:

The idea never took off, but what is ironical, is that in the end, 18 years later, many of these symbols are now part of various segments of unicode, inluding emoji, so the only difference between now and the 1994 proposal is the type of escape sequence: unicode numbers vs. named entities. It is one of the rare cases where something ends up being implemented one level down in the abstraction stack, not in the browser, but in the text rendering system of the operating system (schematically at least, chrome seems to be be doing strange things with emoji).

Edit: here is the W3C proposal

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