Abjad Hawaz 7o66i Kalamun, lost in the Markup

| Aug 5, 2010 | comment 3 Comments

أبجد هوز

An Arabic art gallery without some of the best crafted calligraphy holds no value. That’s a fact. Arabic calligraphy & poetry are forms of cultural pride and not just art. Going digital, we lose all that. From readability to interaction. It’s all gone. Bold? Italic? Underlined? Get yourself ten Arabic books. Open’em, read’em, do you find anything in Bold? Italic? or Underlined? No you don’t. But we do have all that on the Web. How come?

Some will debate this with Interaction & Readability unity across different languages–English that is but with all the author-ware software developers’ presence in the region there hasn’t been one solid negating report which gets us to a simple conclusion, not enough efforts, at least not as much as it deserves.

So with all the calls for Arabic content around and how much Arabic content is going to be important for the growth of Arabic users’ online experience and the Internet industry in general, the basics haven’t really been covered.

Dates, Numbers, and List items

HTML, as a base for everything-web does not support or understand any Arabic apart from text direction & encoding. No numbers, no dates, and more importantly no Ordered-Lists(OL Tag). You often see Arabic websites showing everything in Arabic but Numbers. Specially Financial or Business portals. Where numbers & dates weight more.

When was the last time you sorted your Ordered List(OL) in Abjad(ابجد) style or showed your list with Arabic numbers(on an Arabic website) instead of English? Simpler than that, when was the last time you could post a list with Arabic letters as indices? Yep, we keep reading Arabic content that are all styled in Latin. Even though in CSS3 a new system was added to Ordered Lists(arabic-indices) we often don’t see it put to use. Among many Numbering/Ordering/Sorting algorithms available for many languages, the Arabic style of sorting, not even one system is included in the CSS3 attributes for algorithmic/alpha-numeric sorting, Japanese has it, even Hebrew has a system available on CSS3 level.

So what is really going wrong? Why W3C hasn’t included anything really important to Arabic’s Markup & Format? W3C works in separated groups and task forces each including a great number of moderators and industry thinkers that work closely with other Entities such as businesses/organizations(Browser makers, Ministries of Information & Culture, etc…) And most of the work done is open, meaning it’s all developed as open technologies. Now with all the years under Arabia’s techno belts, couldn’t Microsoft Arabia work on such a small proposition to add such primitive elements to enable such a perfect language? Specially that Microsoft has it’s own IE Taskforce that works closely with W3C? How about thousands of Arab developers who work on Open Source and contribute to projects such as Firefox, such important elements of the language haven’t been discussed with Mozilla’s task force with W3C? And the mighty Google. Disappointing.

This is really not a technical piece, but to illustrate further on how what works for English doesn’t really work for Arabic. So content, content, content, and yet our Arabic publishing systems lack basic stuff?

I’m sure these will be addressed, and that could only happen with support of Cultural bodies working with W3C. With all the initiatives and investments on content, this will fly easily. So who’s supposed to be in the hot seat?

Then comes Fonts and limitations in online Arabic, and if we move towards mobility, Google with its massive presence in the Middle East has still been shy in makin’ Arabic letters not appear as Squares on Android phones. With all this, still we hear stuff like why such tools like Yamli exist? Or put on a virtual Arabic keyboard to help users type in Arabic. Shortcuts, shortcuts, shortcuts. Tools such as Yamli do not go the wrong way at all, they are tools to make Arabic still exist. It shows how users really do want to write and read in Arabic, even if they were written in English letters. So please next time the Arabic language discussion comes up, concentrate on how it’s displayed and how it is supported by Web browsers and how deep it goes back to its roots before we all judge how we’re writing them. Read first. Write second.

  • http://twitter.com/m4design m4design

    I really couldn't understand what is this post exactly about!
    I mean it sure portrays the poor support of the Arabic language in the IT world, but the structure is really confusing and the message and the main point are a bit mixed up.

    I'm not trying to be negative by the way.

  • http://dot1ne.com Saleh Esmaeili

    My bad :) Is it the bit about the markup/HTML that is confusing? All discussed above is about Web & Online Publishing in Arabic, nothing to do with IT. I wish I didn't have to bring in some of the technical details but those points do represent the whole point. I meant it for every Web-head around.

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