UTF-8 Validation

Published: Sep 13, 2022

Medium Array


Two keys are there to solve this problem:

  • convert integer to binary string
  • count bytes following the rule

Above two are all for this problem.

Problem Description

Given an integer array data representing the data, return whether it is a valid UTF-8 encoding (i.e. it translates to a sequence of valid UTF-8 encoded characters).

A character in UTF8 can be from 1 to 4 bytes long, subjected to the following rules:

  • For a 1-byte character, the first bit is a 0, followed by its Unicode code.
  • For an n-bytes character, the first n bits are all one’s, the n + 1 bit is 0, followed by n - 1 bytes with the most significant 2 bits being 10.

This is how the UTF-8 encoding would work:

    Number of Bytes   |        UTF-8 Octet Sequence
                      |              (binary)
           1          |   0xxxxxxx
           2          |   110xxxxx 10xxxxxx
           3          |   1110xxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx
           4          |   11110xxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx 10xxxxxx

x denotes a bit in the binary form of a byte that may be either 0 or 1. Note: The input is an array of integers. Only the least significant 8 bits of each integer is used to store the data. This means each integer represents only 1 byte of data.


  • 1 <= data.length <= 2 * 10**4
  • 0 <= data[i] <= 255



Example 1:
Input: data = [197,130,1]
Output: true
Explanation: data represents the octet sequence: 11000101 10000010 00000001.
It is a valid utf-8 encoding for a 2-bytes character followed by a 1-byte character.
Example 2:
Input: data = [235,140,4]
Output: false
Explanation: data represented the octet sequence: 11101011 10001100 00000100.
The first 3 bits are all one's and the 4th bit is 0 means it is a 3-bytes character.
The next byte is a continuation byte which starts with 10 and that's correct.
But the second continuation byte does not start with 10, so it is invalid.


The first step is to convert a given integer to zero padded binary string. This depends on the language. In Python, formatting is the way to convert. The second step is to count bytes. When the byte count is zero, following binary strings are counted up. WHen the byte count is greater than zero and ‘10’ byte mark exists, it counts down. In the end, check count is zero.


class Utf8Validation:
    def validUtf8(self, data: List[int]) -> bool:
        count = 0
        for d in data:
            s = '{0:08b}'.format(d)
            if count == 0 and s.startswith('110'):
                count = 1
            elif count == 0 and s.startswith('1110'):
                count = 2
            elif count == 0 and s.startswith('11110'):
                count = 3
            elif count > 0 and s.startswith('10'):
                count -= 1
            elif count == 0 and s.startswith('0'):
                return False
        return count == 0


  • Time: O(n)
  • Space: O(1)