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Web browsers and the new language code for Hebrew

From: Misha Wolf <misha.wolf@reuters.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 1997 13:11:12 +0000 (GMT)
To: www-international <www-international@w3.org>, Unicode <unicode@unicode.org>
Message-Id: <9212111310021997/A14978/REDMS1/11B2534B0C00*@MHS>
We have a problem with the language codes recognised by Web browsers.

The standard mostly widely used in the Internet to specify language codes  
is ISO 639 - "Codes for the representation of names of languages" (see RFC 
1766 and RFC 2070).

Some years ago, the ISO 639 Maintenance Agency amended the standard, adding 
three new language codes:

   Inuktitut    iu
   Uigur        ug
   Zhuang       za

and modifying three existing language codes:

             New code   Old code
   Hebrew       he         iw
   Indonesian   id         in
   Yiddish      yi         ji

The problems caused by the modification of existing codes have been 
discussed previously, as have the pros and cons of the ISO 639 standard and 
of the various competing standards and schemes.  I don't want to waken those 
particular dragons.

What I want to raise is a very particular problem: Two of the browsers that 
handle Hebrew (maybe this should read "The two browsers that handle 
Hebrew"), recognise the old language code ("iw") but not the new one ("he").
This is very worrying.  I hope the vendors will speedily enhance their 
products to recognise both the old and new codes.

This leaves us with a very specific problem in regard to the IUC10 Web pages 
at <http://www.reuters.com/unicode/iuc10>.  Should we use the old code for 
Hebrew, so that the browsers recognise it and display it, or the new one so 
as to encourage the vendors to fix their browsers, with the disadvantage 
that the text won't display correctly?  We have deferred publishing the 
Hebrew, Arabic and Yiddish texts until we know how to resolve this (and some 
other problems).

Received on Monday, 10 February 1997 08:09:40 UTC

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