Consensus Call on Latin Sharp S and Greek Final Sigma

Cary Karp ck at
Mon Nov 30 11:49:42 CET 2009

> The ONLY place where a distinction is interesting is in 
> Germany and Austria

Even if we were only discussing the ß and forgetting entirely about the
ς, this assertion would be untrue.

It ignores and disenfranchises the gTLD registries, which support a
significant part of the IDN space. Their constituencies include
diasporic and minority language communities that do not identify
themselves with the geopolitical entities in which their orthographies
are predominantly used (assuming that such entities even exist) as well
as business entities that wish to maintain generic domain name
identities instead of, or in addition to, national ones.

It further ignores the efforts of multinational governmental entities
such as the EU that are pushing very hard to ensure that administrative
systems operated by their member state governments provide full support
for the native orthographies of all the community languages, most
specifically in the representation of names.

Two years ago, the Swedish government issued guidelines (with a promise
to elevate them to "binding directive" if not otherwise adopted) that
led to a broad extension of the IDN repertoire supported by .SE,
including languages that by the present logic are none of Sweden's
business. There are current plans to further extend that repertoire in
anticipation of an EU directive. The Swedish national TLD registry is
not alone in responding to such force in this manner.

Governments issue normative guidelines about the orthographic practice
of their agencies, either via agencies dedicated to the maintenance of
those norms, or by binding reference to corresponding works developed in
academic contexts. Such things as school curricula and the de facto
standards of the publishing industry are reciprocally involved in this
process. The administrative concerns of TLD registries are not.

If a ccTLD operator were to be asked by a government representative why
they are not supporting ß and ς according to general prescription, one
component of the answer would need literally to be, "because the IETF
left us no choice". The likelihood of the question then being turned to
the IETF seems pretty high and it's interesting to contemplate what
would happen if the explanation then given was that we decided to follow
the orthographic recommendations of TLD operators rather than the
normative guidelines of the government, even when we knew them to conflict.

This is not a dialog that might only be expected on a national level.
Illustrating this with a purely hypothetical situation -- should, say,
the Government of Cyprus decide to apply for the Fast Track delegation
of the full name of the country, it would not likely be happy when told
that it this not possible because the operator of the ccTLD in another
country where Greek orthography is prevalent persuasively advised the
IETF that the final sigma is dispensable. This would bump the question
up to the EU level, also calling attention to the fuller range of their
orthographic directives.

The only places where this is interesting are NOT Germany and Austria.


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