[Python-Dev] Why can't I encode/decode base64 without importing a module?

MRAB python at mrabarnett.plus.com
Thu Apr 25 18:53:53 CEST 2013

On 25/04/2013 15:22, MRAB wrote:
> On 25/04/2013 14:34, Lennart Regebro wrote:
>> On Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 2:57 PM, Antoine Pitrou <solipsis at pitrou.net> wrote:
>>> I can think of many usecases where I want to *embed* base64-encoded
>>> data in a larger text *before* encoding that text and transmitting
>>> it over a 8-bit channel.
>> That still doesn't mean that this should be the default behavior. Just
>> because you *can* represent base64 as Unicode text doesn't mean that
>> it should be.
>> One use case where you clearly *do* want the base64 encoded data to be
>> unicode strings is because you want to embed it in a text discussing
>> base64 strings, for a blog or a book or something. That doesn't seem
>> to be a very common usecase.
>> For the most part you base64 encode things because it's going to be
>> transmitted, and hence the natural result of a base64 encoding should
>> be data that is ready to be transmitted, hence byte strings, and not
>> Unicode strings.
>>> Python 3 doesn't *view* text as unicode, it *represents* it as unicode.
>> I don't agree that there is a significant difference between those
>> wordings in this context. The end result is the same: Things intended
>> to be handled/seen as textual should be unicode strings, things
>> intended for data exchange should be byte strings. Something that is
>> base64 encoded is primarily intended for data exchange. A base64
>> encoding should therefore return byte strings, especially since most
>> API's that perform this transmission will take byte strings as input.
>> If you want to include this in textual data, for whatever reason, like
>> printing it in a book, then the conversion is trivial, but that is
>> clearly the less common use case, and should therefore not be the
>> default behavior.
> base64 is a way of encoding binary data as text. The problem is that
> traditionally text has been encoded with one byte per character, except
> in those locales where there were too many characters in the character
> set for that to be possible.
> In Python 3 we're trying to stop mixing binary data (bytestrings) with
> text (Unicode strings).
RFC 4648 says """Base encoding of data is used in many situations to 
store or transfer data in environments that, perhaps for legacy reasons, 
are restricted to US-ASCII [1] data.""".

To me, "US-ASCII" is an encoding, so it appears to be talking about
encoding binary data (bytestrings) to ASCII-encoded text (bytestrings).

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