DENIC Contributes Source Code for the Use of the German Letter “Eszett” (“ß”) in Firefox 45

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DENIC has contributed part of the code for the new version 45 of the web browser Mozilla Firefox, which was launched on 8 March 2016: Thanks to this donation to the open-source community, Firefox users can now, for the first time, address domains containing certain special characters (Internationalized Domain Names, IDNs) such as the German letter “Eszett” (ß). For the time being, the new code cannot yet be used in the Firefox application for Android. This is due to the particularities of the Google platform.

Up to now, users entering the letter “ß” have been re-routed to domains containing the character string “ss” instead, although in theory, browsers would have been able to represent this special character since August 2010. At that time, the Internet Standard for Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA2008) had been adapted correspondingly by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

DENIC, too, had included the “Eszett” more than five years ago in the set of characters permitted for .de domains already. However, to date the practicality of this had been limited due to the lack of browser support.

The DENIC-coded novelty in Firefox 45 is also of benefit to the users of other language families which are not based on Latin characters: In fact it paved the way for the entire range of characters under IDNA2008 to be fully available in Firefox starting as of now. Additionally, various characters from Greek, Farsi and Sinhala, for which re-routing had to be applied so far, are now able to be resolved as characters in their own right in domains.

Overall, the IDNA2008 standard, which is based on the Unicode character set, allows the coding of thousands of new characters from various script systems. As a result, tens of thousands of characters from a multitude of different script systems may be used actively in Internet browsers and e-mail applications, provided that the required client support is available. On DENIC’s website, we provide a list of programs that are currently IDNA-capable.

Also in 2011, the developers of the Libidn2 library, which serves to code and decode internationalized domain names, had implemented the revised algorithm of the IDNA standard on the basis of a corresponding source code donation by DENIC. At present, DENIC is examining the possibility of extending its code contribution to include Mozilla’s free e-mail programme Thunderbird as well.

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