Re: "Difficult Characters" draft (in URLs)

Alain LaBont/e'/ (alb@sct.gouv.qc.ca)
Mon, 21 Apr 1997 09:09:41


Message-Id: <3.0.1.16.19970421090941.327fb71e@riq.qc.ca>
Date: Mon, 21 Apr 1997 09:09:41
To: "Martin J. Duerst" <mduerst@ifi.unizh.ch>
From: "Alain LaBont/e'/" <alb@sct.gouv.qc.ca>
Subject: Re: "Difficult Characters" draft (in URLs)
Cc: URI mailing list <uri@bunyip.com>
In-Reply-To: <Pine.SUN.3.96.970507230544.245s-100000@enoshima>

A 23:16 97-05-07 +0200, Martin J. Duerst a écrit :
>On Wed, 7 May 1997, Alain LaBont/e'/ wrote:
>
>> [Martin] :
>> >To be more precise, could you then agree to the suggestion
>> >that uppercase accented letters should be discouraged in
>> >URLs intended for a general "France-French" audience, given
>> >as an example of how case might affect URLs, the reason for
>> >this being the current widespread use of keyboards that make
>> >it difficult to enter such characters?

[Alain] : 
>> No, we could not agree on this as long as upper case will not be
>> discouraged for everybody. Even if upper case letters are not available on
>> all machines, in France, all environments which use browsers have the
>> possibility to copy (as you suggested for URLs) the exact characters
>> required from either a system-provided table or an existing URL. Short-term
>> considerations have made people take bad decisions in the past, that would
>> be a bad decision too.

[Martin] :
>I am not clear whether I understand the facts correctly.
>Is the vast majority of (France-)French users, at the present time,
>able, in reasonable time and without having to consult a friend or
>a manual and searching in menus and the like, to input an upper-case
>accented letter?
>[Please note that I don't mind if a user e.g. in Japan has to search
>for an uppercase accented letter in a system table or so to input
>a French URL, but that I don't think that should be what a lot of
>French should have to do, because we want URLs to be user-friendly
>to those that actually use it.]
>
>If due to newer keyboards and the like, the answer is yes, then
>of course we don't need a warning as I proposed it above.

[Alain] :
Facts:
1. Keyboards exist in France to do that although they are not spread like
   they are in Canada.
2. You also suggested that the general practice is to copy a URL as is, which 
   is easy with current browsers and GUIs.
3. It is also easy to copy a character, say under Windows or Mac, which is
   the real environment for a vast majority of users, even if the majority
   of Franco-French users don't have a keyboard with all upper case accented 
   letters. It is also possible to use macros to speed access to those
   characters or to any character that is frequently used but that you don't 
   have on your keyboard. Finally the <ALT><NumKeypad> is a widely-known
   dirty but useful practice in France for which there were even protests
   when one manufacturer removed this possibility on portables...
4. The most important: they now teach (or recommend to teach) in
Franco-French 
   schools to put accents on capital letters when the hardware can reproduce 
   them (which is the case all the time with browsers and current graphic 
   technology). If you wish I could give references.
5. Typographers might correct what appears a spelling mistake to them in a
URL 
   in a magazine. I see this all the time. Now for typographers, upper case
   accented letters even in France were always considered sacro-sanct, in
   spite of what was taught in schools before because of embarrassment with 
   mechanical typewriter technology (to avoid pupils' burn-outs (; )
6. Dictionaries and grammars are clear on this : if an accent is necessary on
   a letter, then it shall be put if it is a capital letter. "Accents have
   full spelling value in French".

[Martin] :
>If however the answer is no, then for the time being (and if necessary
>by adding an explicit comment that this may change in the future)
>we should leave that comment as it is. People in France may be
>punished enough by the bad influences of the typewriter, but
>I would rather prefer to advise URL creators to take this into
>account than to punish the owners of such bad keyboards again.

The best compromise that could be done *at the limit* would be to be silent
on this. But at least **don't** *recommend* to "avoid using upper case
accented capitals", which will be interpreted as "avoid putting accents on
capital letters" unless you recommend at once to avoid capital letters for
everybody, not only the French-speaking people.

I wish this is a bit clearer. If there is still something not logically
clear in what I say about this concern, don't hesitate to ask again.

Alain LaBonté
Québec