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Re: Non-ASCII Internet addresses? (Was: Comment on the draft MIME Part 1 document)

1993-04-29 19:26:55
To:  ietf-822(_at_)dimacs(_dot_)rutgers(_dot_)edu
Subject:  Non-ASCII Internet addresses?
Date:  Thu, 29 Apr 93 21:41:45 +0200

I don't think this is a good idea.

It's important that the "displayed" form of an address be identical to
the way you spell it when you type it in. ...

I agree with this but I don't see how it can be an argument
against my proposal.  There is no reason why mail software,
implementing the rules for representing non-ASCII characters,
can't be fully symmetric in the sense that all non-ASCII
characters that can be displayed can also be input by normal
keyboard methods.  On my Swedish keyboard there is a key for the
letter A WITH DIAERESIS.  To write an address containing this
letter (by means of my proposed encoding) I will press this key.
From the point of view of a user of a new mail program the
displayed address will be identical to the address he enters by
the keyboard.  In both cases he sees the non-ASCII characters.

... I need to be able to give
the address to a friend on paper or a business card.  What happens if
his system doesn't support the same character set mine does?

On my business card my email address would be given in two
forms, one containing non-ASCII characters, the other being the
real sequence of ASCII characters that form the RFC 822 address.
This isn't different from other possible solutions of the
"non-ASCII characters in addresses" problem I think.

I have a *very* strong bias against having multiple ways to spell
an email address.  If I ask a list of average users what their
Internet email address, is, I'll get a wide range of responses,
including things like:

joe(_at_)com(_dot_)foobar (if this were a UK address :-)

In general there is a tendency for each user to assume that his view of the
world is the same one that everyone else sees.  As the local postmaster, I am
frequently asked to translate an address from one form into something that
will work with "our" mail system -- and before I can give an answer, I must
know whether the user uses UNIX, VMS, VM/CMS and PROFS, or a PC of some
kind...the instructions are different in each case.

Of course you are knowledgable enough to put both addresses on your business
card, but for your scheme to be successful, you must educate every email user
on the Internet about the (very subtle) difference in the two schemes.  (Or
worse yet, multiply the two user naming schemes by the number of different
address syntaxes...)  This is a tall order.  It's far easier to just hand
users an opaque string and be done with it....we need to minimize the number
of different address syntaxes, not add more confusion.

The real solution to this problem is not to make 8-bit user names work with
email, but to build a reasonable directory that can translate "real" names to
email addresses.  As user communities grow larger, addresses become less
meaningful anyway...there are too many name collisions for everyone to have
his name as his email address.

Any scheme to "translate" 8-bit names into ASCII is going to introduce some
instability and cause some pain as users adapt.  If we have the directory do
the translation ... we gain additional functionality and we only have to go
through one transition.