AW: sharp s (Eszett)

Georg Ochsner g.ochsner at
Sun Mar 9 17:34:15 CET 2008

> -----Ursprüngliche Nachricht-----
> Von: John C Klensin
> Gesendet: Freitag, 7. März 2008 18:41
> 	There are
> 	certainly users today, including some in Germany, who
> 	are taking advantage of the mapping, using Eszett in
> 	IRIs and other references but having registered domain
> 	names whose labels contain encoding of the "ss" form.

I think there are some reasons, why there should not be too many people
communicating the IDN with sharp s instead of their common domain with "ss".
1st still many users do not even know about IDNs hence their alternative,
2nd amongst those knowing IDNs many may believe that the sharp ß simply
"doesn't work" at all as it cannot be registered in IDNs (it will be
rejected as invalid at the German registry, not mapped to the "ss" version)
rather than knowing about the mapping from sharp s to "ss" and finally if
someone is knowing all the facts he would take into account that 40% (+-5%)
of the German users are still using MSIE6 which does not support IDNs.

> 	(2) It is worth noting, as part of the ongoing
> 	discussion about mapping (or not), that, had Eszett
> 	simply been rejected by IDNA2003 (rather than mapped),
> 	adding it now as a valid (and unmapped) character would
> 	be a simple matter.   With the behavior in IDNA2003, any
> 	change is an incompatible one.

This is clearly not a nice situation but... But as long as IDNA has still a
significant way to take until being supported in nearly all applications
(see my statement above) maybe the chance should be taken to change this
mapping at the costs of incompatibility.

> 	(3) In addition to the "no upper case form", the
> 	argument for making the mapping --and at least part of
> 	the argument that led to the mapping in IDNA2003-- is
> 	that, even though  everyone understands that some words
> 	containing "ss" cannot be mapped back into Eszett,
> 	"everyone" would expect the two to match. Again, that is
> 	a report about how we got here historically. I am not
> 	qualified to make a judgment about whether the statement
> 	is actually correct.  Arguably, neither is the IETF (see
> 	(5), below).

I personally do not think at all that "everybody" would expect two German
words to match where sharp and double s are transposed. As I said before the
opposite is the case, changing sharp s into "ss" and vice verse can even
lead to words with different meanings. At least it will lead to wrong
spelling, and I hope nobody working on standards finds this a trifle.

> 	(4) There is no _technical_ problem with treating Eszett
> 	as a normal letter in IDNA200X as long as everyone
> 	understands that "no mapping" means "no matching with
> 	the 'ss' form" and we can live with the incompatible
> 	change.  You (and clearly some others) believe that is
> 	the right answer for German as written in Germany (and
> 	elsewhere).  Some others believe that it is the wrong
> 	answer for German as written in Switzerland (and
> 	elsewhere).   But there is no middle ground in which it
> 	can be a character in some places and a notation for
> 	"ss" in others.

As Swiss people do not use the sharp s, why should they miss the mapping
then? I'd rather assume that they just wouldn't care. Beside that in the end
it is also a question of populations I think.

> I believe that we can make some incompatible changes like this
> (and like the addition of ZWJ and ZWNJ with contextual controls)
> now if there is fairly strong consensus in the
> materially-affected communities that the change is important
> enough and that they are prepared to deal with it.   I also
> think it is our last chance, so we had better get it right this
> time.   Others may disagree with one or both of those beliefs.

I agree with both.

Best regards

> thanks again,
>        john
> --On Friday, 07 March, 2008 17:52 +0100 Georg Ochsner
> <g.ochsner at> wrote:
> > Hello,
> >
> > I am a native German speaker (born in Austria, living in
> > Germany). I noticed that there have already been postings
> > about the German sharp s (Eszett) but actually very few (if
> > any) from German people (Afaik Martin is from Switzerland,
> > where people normally do not use the sharp s).
> >
> > I want to stress how important the sharp s actually is for
> > most of the German speaking users. Beside the 3 umlauts which
> > can already be used in IDNs the sharp s is the 4th character
> > which would really matter for users. Over 90 million German
> > speakers do use the sharp s. In German texts it is used more
> > often than the letters "j", "q" and "y" for instance. The
> > sharp s has (of course) a direct key on German keyboards.
> >
> > Concerning IDNA I have to say, that the sharp s is NOT equal
> > to double s. Mapping the sharp s to "ss" is not natural from a
> > user's point of view. If you substitute the sharp s by "ss"
> > you will get wrong spelling in most cases and sometimes even
> > other words with totally different meanings, which can be
> > confusing. There are strict grammatical rules whether to use
> > the one or the other.
> >
> > I am not versed enough to know the deep technical impacts, but
> > I am enthusiastic about the German language though... How
> > could the sharp s be implemented into IDNA so that it can be
> > used in IDNs? I read that the Latin capital sharp S has been
> > added to Unicode 5.1 now
> > ( The document
> > also proposes a tailored casing operation from small to
> > capital sharp s where desired. What implications does that
> > have on "rule B" in the current table document and the other
> > documents?
> >
> > As an user I would really like to see the sharp s in IDNs,
> > maybe you can discuss the technical impacts, even if it takes
> > kind of workarounds or "special" mappings...? As far as I can
> > contribute by collecting orthographic data or contacting
> > German language specialist here in Germany to join the
> > discussion, please let me know and I will try.
> >
> > Best regards
> > Georg
> >
> >
> > PS.: Please forgive and correct me if I mixed up technical
> > terms...

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