What is base64 ?
Base64 is a group of similar binary-to-text encoding schemes that represent binary data in an ASCII string format by translating it into a radix-64 representation. The term Base64 originates from a specific MIME content transfer encoding.
The particular set of 64 characters chosen to represent the 64 place-values for the base varies between implementations. The general strategy is to choose 64 characters that are both members of a subset common to most encodings, and also printable. This combination leaves the data unlikely to be modified in transit through information systems, such as email, that were traditionally not 8-bit clean. For example, MIME's Base64 implementation uses A–Z, a–z, and 0–9 for the first 62 values. Other variations share this property but differ in the symbols chosen for the last two values; an example is UTF-7.
The earliest instances of this type of encoding were created for dialup communication between systems running the same OS — e.g., uuencode for UNIX, BinHex for the TRS-80 (later adapted for the Macintosh) — and could therefore make more assumptions about what characters were safe to use. For instance, uuencode uses uppercase letters, digits, and many punctuation characters, but no lowercase.
The example below uses ASCII text for simplicity, but this is not a typical use case, as it can already be safely transferred across all systems that can handle Base64. The more typical use is to encode binary data (such as an image); the resulting Base64 data will only contain 64 different ASCII characters, all of which can reliably be transferred across systems that may corrupt the raw source bytes.
A quote from Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (be aware of spaces between lines):
Man is distinguished, not only by his reason, but by this singular passion from
other animals, which is a lust of the mind, that by a perseverance of delight
in the continued and indefatigable generation of knowledge, exceeds the short
vehemence of any carnal pleasure.
is represented as a byte sequence of 8-bit-padded ASCII characters encoded in MIME's Base64 scheme as follows:
In the above quote, the encoded value of Man is TWFu. Encoded in ASCII, the characters M, a, and n are stored as the bytes 77, 97, and 110, which are the 8-bit binary values 01001101, 01100001, and 01101110. These three values are joined together into a 24-bit string, producing 010011010110000101101110. Groups of 6 bits (6 bits have a maximum of 26 = 64 different binary values) are converted into individual numbers from left to right (in this case, there are four numbers in a 24-bit string).