Technical inconsistencies and ‘mistakes’ mar initial spadework
C-DAC game for another round of consultations
Developer community seeks technical debate
KOCHI: The initial technical spadework done to pave the way eventually for the use of Malayalam in Internet domain names (website addresses) is riddled with technical inconsistencies and “mistakes,” say key members of a developer community associated with Malayalam open-source software projects.
Unless these are sorted out, Internet users may be saddled with certain problems and limitations in making use of Malayalam website names later on, when the language is brought under the purview of the Internationalised Domain Name (IDN) regime, say members of the Swathanthra Malayalam Computing (SMC) community.
The draft technical policy for the use of Malayalam in website addresses was released by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) about a year ago.
The IDN regime was launched globally by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that oversees the functioning of the Internet web address system, in November 2009. A top C-DAC functionary in Pune said the draft policy could be open to changes if “deemed” necessary.
It would not be appropriate to talk immediately of “mistakes” and “inconsistencies” in the policy without going into the details of the logic behind these, Mahesh Kulkarni, Programme Coordinator, C-DAC, Pune, told The Hindu.
The SMC has, however, been told earlier this week that C-DAC did not mind having one more round of consultation on the issues raised.
Many languages ahead
Since the launch of the IDN, the languages of a growing number of countries have become part of the global web address system, but India is in the process of getting technical clearance for the use of the first set of Indian languages in website addresses.
The IDN system makes it possible for languages with non-Latin scripts to be used in website names. Its launch, about a year ago, has technically opened up the possibility for using many of the world’s key languages, spoken by large sections of the world’s population, such as Chinese, Arabic and Hindi, in website addresses.
India has drawn up a draft policy that envisages the introduction of the country’s languages to the Internet web address system in phases. However, the first clutch of languages that are likely to be introduced soon does not include Malayalam. There are several challenges in using different, yet related, languages in web addresses because of possible mix-ups in the way the characters that make up these languages are used for the purpose. There are several characters that could be used individually by more than one language.
One particular concern is that such issues can be exploited by those with malicious intent to mislead and cheat Internet users.
It is to ensure the safety of users that ICANN has asked the respective countries to prepare technical rules that spell out the range of characters that are to be used in website addresses — in combination with which other characters and in what manner. Much of it has to do with Unicode, an e-coding standard that covers a wide range of letters, punctuation, and symbols in use in all languages.
One of the issues is that the draft IDN policy for Malayalam is based on the use of the modern script. SMC members question the technical assumption that bonds the IDN policy with modern Malayalam script, and say that there was no precise definition as to what constituted the modern script. And the issue of security should be taken up “independent” of the kind of script used, they argue.
The SMC members have also called to question the C-DAC position that the policy has been framed on the basis of a study of script rendering by existing browsers. Standards and policy that point to future implementation should not be based on how existing browsers render text, they contend and point out that incorrect rendering could be due to the “buggy behaviour” of the browsers.
One other issue is that the SMC community is concerned about is that the technical policy ties up web addresses to version 5.1 of Unicode, which is said to have thrown up technical problems as far as Malayalam is concerned. Its members say that web addresses should work with any Malayalam font that complies with Unicode version 5.0 and “correctly implements Malayalam language rules.”
The SMC community has called for a technical debate on the draft IDN policy covering all Malayalam stakeholders — language experts, language computing experts and developers. C-DAC has now indicated that it was game for a round of consultations in this regard.
Courtesy: The Hindu.
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