You might remember that I have had some nasty problems with my surname and internationalisation in general. What I didn’t post at the time, because I was still unsure about it, was something very Internet-related, with my surname.
A few months ago, in a job-related call, I had to leave my email address to someone, who either is not much practical with English or just didn’t like the “hackers’ way” of having a pseudonym, and suggested that “flameeyes” is too difficult to write and I should just use my full name, at least for job-related mail. Beside the obvious concern that if I am to work for somebody who think “flameeyes” is not good, I’m probably not doing a job I’d enjoy (I sincerely hope to find something that would let me just use “flameeyes” as company’s username, although I admit it might not be that feasible unless I’m self-employed,
which I guess I could be ironically since I drafted this post things changed and I am now self-employed…), I have two main drawbacks of doing that. Again, my surname hits, since I doubt any mail server would be able to accept “pettenò” as part of the username, not even in punycode, and then probably “diego.elio.pettenò@something” is unlikely to be easy to spell.
I actually thought about making a point. I am disappointed when people seem to think that “Pettenò” and “Petteno” are just the same and equivalent; sorry they are not. It’s not just a decoration on the “o”; I can understand if an English speaker wouldn’t know how to differentiate, I’m sure they also find it difficult to type, but beside the fact they can copy it, what I get upset about is when it’s not handled in the databases where I register myself. I’m sure if I have to spell it out on the phone it’s going to be a problem, but I get upset if the automated systems can’t handle it, because we have the tools. We’re not in the ‘80s where multiple 8-bit ASCII codepages were cool, we’re in 2009 and UTF-8 is available everywhere.
Or almost everywhere; although IDN (Internationalised Domain Names) actually exist, which allow UTF-8 characters to be used for domain names, they are not enabled by default on all TLDs, and they are not for instance in either the .it ccTLD (which would be my country’s), nor on the .eu TLD (which would be my choice, as you can see from my own blog), nor they enable all the symbols in all the TLDs. This is of course because there have been quite a few security concerns regarding their use, as differentiating between variant of the same character as allowed by UTF-8 is far from trivial for the human eye and that allowed for some quite elaborated phising attack. Indeed if I were to use an UTF-8 encoded domain name with the .it TLD in Firefox, it would show up with its punycode encoding because it’s just not safe.
Interestingly enough, the Spanish ccTLD .es not only allows IDN, with the “ò” character, but also seems not to have limitations on registration of domains from foreigners (I have to thank Santiago – Coldwind – for letting me know about that!); while my local registar does not seem to have .es as an option, the one on the other side of the ocean does; while r4l isn’t cheap, it does a good job for the xine domain and since I’m likely to do some tricky stuff with it I might as well have need for some help on the domain handling side (TopHost, with whom I registered this domain, is quite cheap, but still does not allow me to drop the “www.” third-level domain for the main site, and doesn’t have a quick resolution; R4L, while having had some trouble when I registered the domain in the first place, has always been quick and friendly). The choice of R4L was really a good one, thanks to the guys there I could get the IDN domain registered, which failed at the first automated attempt!
So at the end I decided to bite the bullet and basically waste sixty of our eurobucks on this crazy idea, registering three .es domains: pettenò.es, petteno.es and petten.es; I really don’t like the idea of having the last two myself, that is not my surname and I probably am open to just transfer them to someone else if they were to be used by someone having that name; on the other hand I’m expecting disaster from most applications so I’m trying to cover my asses to avoid that non-IDN-enabled software would send mail to the wrong address (that would be a funny security issue).
I want to set up a few things before starting but I’m going to start using some new addresses on the main domain (pettenò.es) quite soon; you probably won’t see my mail going out with that domain in the first place, but I’m going to use it to register on sites and try accessing mailing lists. It’s going to be fun.
I know there are people probably already using IDN domains out there in the wild, but the reason why I want to look at this at first hand is that, first of all, I’m quite the nitpicker especially for Free Software; you most certainly are going to see changes in Free Software I work on if it doesn’t work with my new shiny IDN-enabled domain. Second, I’m going to try them in an environment where they are not expected; Spanish web developers have more chance to have encountered IDN before (I remember www.elpaís.es used as an example), and thus to have taken care to support that than their colleagues in Italy. I’m going to have so much fun with the Italian bureaucracy with this, I’m sure.
But I’m sure I can find enough problems with Free Software especially in configuration files; I’m also sure that a lot of projects wouldn’t consider those problems, because, you know, supporting UTF-8 everywhere would be like accepting that English is not the only language… it so happens that it is not! And I get pretty vocal when it comes to supporting my full name properly. Maybe I just have problems, and I need the help of someone good, or maybe I’m just not ready to settle for mediocre software.
Update (2016-04-29): These domains are no longer under my control, although I still own http://pettenò.eu.