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Internet change for foreign spelling

Published on 27/02/2004

27 February 2004

FRANKFURT – A major makeover of domain names on the internet begins Monday, with dozens of letters used in the German, French and other alphabets allowed in website names and e-mail addresses.

DENIC, the German domain-name registry, said Friday in Frankfurt it would begin from 10.00 a.m. Monday accepting registration of names containing germanic spelling. The German alphabet has three additional “umlaut” sounds: a, o, and u with two dots over them.

In all, 92 extra letters with diacritic marks such as strokes and and other modifications – for example French sounds with accents – will be allowed from March 1 under the Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) expansion.

Keyboards already vary from country to country to cope with the various existing alphabets, but domain names do not.

Currently all domain names are composed exclusively of the 26 letters of the English alphabet, the 10 digits and hyphens. Those American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) letters will continue to be the basis of domain names.

The 92 extra letters will be represented by “ASCII-compatible encoding” (ACE), a chunk of text that is recognizable by the fact that it always begins xn--. New computers on sale around the world may recognize the diacritic letters, but old software cannot.

Defenders of the change say they are fed up with spelling their names “wrong” by adapting them to an “American” alphabet.

There have been warnings that the change will hamper international understanding via the Internet, because it will be impossible for many people to address e-mails to someone with “foreign” letters in their address.

DENIC said users could improvise by discovering the ACE form of a new-style name and typing this into the computer instead.

Subject: German news