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A general description is here.
‘readLines()’ and ‘scan()’ (and hence ‘read.table()’) in a UTF-8 locale now discard a UTF-8 byte-order-mark (BOM). Such BOMs are allowed but not recommended by the Unicode Standard: however Microsoft applications can produce them and so they are sometimes found on websites.
The encoding name ‘"UTF-8-BOM"’ for a connection will ensure that a UTF-8 BOM is discarded.
In Windows, ‘file.link()’ and ‘file.symlink()’ used the link name twice, so would always fail. (Reported by Rui Barradas/Oliver Soong).