[rfc-i] How lack of Unicode support in IDs is detrimental to design

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Fri Jul 27 13:03:27 PDT 2012

On Fri, Jul 27, 2012 at 09:39:45PM +0200, Martin Rex wrote:
> It would be a real nightmare (for the document authors and the document
> consumers) if every single document that uses DNS had to deal with
> Unicode to A-label conversion over and over and over again.

What in the world does U-label/A-label conversion have to do with
anything Phill was talking about?  U-label/A-label conversion is
indeed well-understood and well-specified somewhere, and so it's
possible just to point to that.

But Phill was talking about a case where he is planning to put UTF-8
_in the protocol_, and make that UTF-8 significant in the protocol;
and he was quite correctly pointing out that providing zero examples
to show how this could happen is an excellent way to ensure that some
underpaid contract programmer with half an attention span will
implement the protocol in the future without handling the UTF-8
encoded protocol fields, and then there'll be an interoperability
problem.  I agree with him.  (Indeed, the comparison with DNS is a
good one, but in support of Phill's conclusion: all sorts of things we
are or have been saddled with in the DNS are/were there because some
developer read the examples but didn't understand the protocol.  This
extends right down to the indifferent attention paid to the protocol
instruction that labels are octets, not ASCII strings.)

I have mostly tuned out of this discussion recently because of a
vexing pattern of behaviour.  Every time someone suggests even the
most modest accommodation to facts about the computing environment
since, say, 1990 -- the rise of Unicode, the wide variety of display
environments, the decline almost to irrelevance of fixed-line and
length formats and terminal-type displays, the decline of printed
matter in many computing environments, the complete lack of support by
printers of older-style formatting -- some helpful reactionary is
there to deny that any of these issues are even remotely important to
him (it seems always to be him) and that therefore the topic is
closed.  It's hard to see what the value is in participating in such a
fruitless "discussion".



Andrew Sullivan
ajs at crankycanuck.ca

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