As mentioned on the "Function Overloading" page, you can get the benefits of this module in existing code with almost zero effort on your part - just set "mbstring.func_overload" in php.ini.
While there are many languages in which every necessary character can be represented by a one-to-one mapping to an 8-bit value, there are also several languages which require so many characters for written communication that they cannot be contained within the range a mere byte can code (A byte is made up of eight bits. Each bit can contain only two distinct values, one or zero. Because of this, a byte can only represent 256 unique values (two to the power of eight)). Multibyte character encoding schemes were developed to express more than 256 characters in the regular bytewise coding system.
When you manipulate (trim, split, splice, etc.) strings encoded in a multibyte encoding, you need to use special functions since two or more consecutive bytes may represent a single character in such encoding schemes. Otherwise, if you apply a non-multibyte-aware string function to the string, it probably fails to detect the beginning or ending of the multibyte character and ends up with a corrupted garbage string that most likely loses its original meaning.
mbstring provides multibyte specific string functions that help you deal with multibyte encodings in PHP. In addition to that, mbstring handles character encoding conversion between the possible encoding pairs. mbstring is designed to handle Unicode-based encodings such as UTF-8 and UCS-2 and many single-byte encodings for convenience (listed below).