RE: DEC multilingual code page, ISO 8859-1, etc.

From: Chris Pratley (
Date: Wed Mar 29 2000 - 17:23:13 EST


-----Original Message-----
From: Frank da Cruz []
Sent: March 28, 2000 8:31 AM
To: Chris Pratley
Cc: Unicode List
Subject: RE: DEC multilingual code page, ISO 8859-1, etc.

Chris Pratley wrote:

> It's an interesting conundrum. Do we support Unicode formats but still
> produce non-Unicode by default, or the reverse?
Yes, this is the conundrum we all face. In a more controlled environment,
there actually could be a cold cutover, as there was, for example, when
the ARPAnet switched from NCP to TCP/IP.

The question in the current discussion, however, is what the non-Unicode
formats should be. Should they be standard or proprietary character sets?

There is, of course, no point in quibbling about the past. What's done is
done. Microsoft is obviously not alone in promoting its own interests by
putting private encodings on the wire in a public, open network.
>>>There's that fiendish plot again, no doubt cooked up while a bunch of
horned Microsoft employees cackled over a boiling cauldron. Frank, may I
suggest you either put down the enormous weight of that chip on your
shoulder, or submit this theory to the Weekly World News? We are all trying
to get Unicode implemented here, so the constant implication of evil
intentions gets a little tiresome after awhile.
 It just
happens to be the most prominent and successful example at the moment --
"embrace and extend"?
>>>Hardly. I would cheer if the net could somehow be converted to Unicode
content and away from 1252. But since I'm taking so much flak anyway, let me
point out that the emperor has no clothes. Approximately 85% of Windows
users now have a Unicode capable browser and mail client (Either IE/OE4+,
Nav4+, Eudora, etc.). Very shortly the biggest user group without Unicode
support for basic tools will be *Unix* browsers and mail clients. If these
were all Unicode enabled Microsoft could start defaulting to Unicode output
for its products in the next two years or so, rather than having to wait as
we do now. Microsoft browsers and email clients have been Unicode enabled
for years now. But if we switched to Unicode output at this juncture, the
most heavily impacted user group would be Unix users. Why is this the case?
This is what prompted this thread initially - I am bewildered by the lack of
progress of Unicode support on non-Windows platforms (Mac is doing fine, but
Unix is the laggard). Ironically, for some reason it is from the Unix user
group from which we have to take the most guff. The most encouraging things
I've read so far were Erik's comments on progress with Navigator and
Markus's with x86free. All I can say is, keep it up guys, we're waiting!
Life would be so much easier if we could default to Unicode, but the longer
the implementations take, the longer we have to wait for them to propagate,
pushing out the cut-over date even longer. I'd like to see less protestation
and more implementation...

The question is whether new applications should continue to do this. In
my opinion, if an application needs to use characters that are not in any
standard 8-bit character set, then that is the time to introduce Unicode.
It is NOT the time to pump still more private code-page data into the
public network.
>>>Surely you must recognize that even if Microsoft ceased to exist
tomorrow, there would still be millions and millions of pages in 1252, and
more created every day. This is a practical issue for Unix browsers to
address or not address. If I were working on a Unix browser though, I would
implement Unicode first, and 1252 mapping to Unicode second to make browsing
on Unix a more pleasant experience while I waited for the Unicode
implementation to spread to more users. This is the eminently practical,
least painful migration to Unicode. Given the way things have gone up til
now, I can guarantee that continued non-support of 1252 on Unix browsers is
not going to change the net in any way, hence my curiosity as to why it has
not been done yet. (kindly answered by some others here)
>>>Of course, if you somehow believe that there is an advantage to Microsoft
to promote 1252 as you imply above, then you may think that Microsoft would
never switch over to Unicode by default, and 1252 will "rule". But this
would be some B-movie cartoon caricature of Microsoft, which is actually
staffed by real humans trying to create great Unicode software... :)

A standard character set is one that is in the ISO Register -- the IANA
registry doesn't count. (I realize that Unicoders have problems with the
ISO Register, but it's all there is.)

- Frank

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