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Re: proposed HTTP changes for charset

From: Francois Yergeau <yergeau@alis.ca>
Date: Thu, 4 Jul 1996 14:56:35 -0500
Message-Id: <199607041859.OAA01052@genstar.alis.ca>
To: Ted Hardie <hardie@merlot.arc.nasa.gov>
Cc: http-wg%cuckoo.hpl.hp.com@hplb.hpl.hp.com
> From:          hardie@merlot.arc.nasa.gov (Ted Hardie)
> Date:          Wed, 3 Jul 1996 09:15:12 -0700 (PDT)
> 
> 	As Harald made very clear at the meetings in Montreal, the
> group proposing UTF-8 as a target for new standards recognizes the
> problems associated with an installed base of clients and servers;

As I made very clear in Montreal, I don't care if UTF-8 is the 
default or not.  It is the blessing of ISO-8859 as a default that I 
strongly object, especially when done on the false pretenses of 
"current practice" and "backward compatibility".

> Date:          Wed, 03 Jul 1996 12:43:31 -0700
> From:          "Roy T. Fielding" <fielding@liege.ICS.UCI.EDU>
>
>      Note: The reason for "ISO-8859-1" being the default value when
>      no charset parameter is provided is due to current practice and
>      should not be interpreted as any sort of preference for that
>      character set.

Current practice is that there is no default, everything is sent 
unlabelled, this is a serious interoperability problem, and this 
group's unwillingness to deal with it by simply recognizing that there 
is no default is very disappointing.

> Larry's language is appropriate for a deployed protocol
> and for a reasonable transition.  

Meaning that the problem will go unsolved for the foreseeable future.

HTTP/1.1 is a new protocol, it mandates a number of new things like 
Host:, persistent connections, etc. so that both servers and clients 
will require updating.  Making charset mandatory is very minor, 
especially since it was already there in 1.0 and hence (in principle 
at least) understood by clients.

> HTTP 1.1
> is very far along the road at this point and it is not the place to
> consider a sudden, basic shift in assumed character sets.

There is no point in *assuming* character sets, this is the source of 
the problem: they must be labelled.

I initially proposed UTF-8 as a default as one forward-looking way out 
of the current brokenness, if the WG doesn't want it, fine.  But 
insisting on ISO-8859-1 is both wrong w/r to current practice and 
misguided, IMHO, and *does* indicate a preference for this limited 
character repertoire.

If that is the WG consensus, so be it.  I have expressed my views, 
and will live with a broken, biased standard if that is what comes 
out.

I do hope, however, that at least the language on the Warning header 
will be corrected.  There cannot be the slightest pretense of prior 
art in that case, the current language is purely parochial.
 
-- 
Francois Yergeau <yergeau@alis.com>
Alis Technologies Inc., Montreal
Tel : +1 (514) 747-2547
Fax : +1 (514) 747-2561
Received on Thursday, 4 July 1996 12:05:29 EDT

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