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  • Philip Osadebay - Tech Journalist

What will the internet be incapable of in 2022?

Only time will tell if Humans will do everything online. Still, as such, some words confuse machines. Computers can defeat humans at chess, but some machines get confused over words containing either hyphens, apostrophes, letters, numbers, or hyphens not commonly used in English texts. Some names might be too short or long for old technology.

Let's have some illustrations to understand better:

Mr Chris Lee and his wife, Ms D’Andrea-Lee, are frequent Disney visitors and die-hard fans who happened to win best in show for their cosplay at the “Mousequerade” contest which took place at the official Disney fan club’s 2022 expo.

It's also ravelling that the L.A.-based actor and costume maker was addressed by one of the biggest media companies around the world as “LEAH DANDREALEE".

We also have reports of Irish customers frustrated at the National Carrier Are Lingus. Interestingly, they do not accept names which bear “O’Neill” or “O’Brien” when taking bookings.

Astral, an Aer Lingus booking system, is over 60 years old and doesn’t pay attention to special characters. Its booking system doesn’t accept special characters with apostrophes in a name like O’Brien.

The World Wide Web Consortium establishes international standards for the web and provides guidance on structuring forms for varying dialects. Companies do not have any technical reason to reject names on web forms. Today’s software can handle characters from nearly all languages through UTF-8, an encoding method designed by the worldwide online text standards group Unicode.

Some companies are messing up names because they are still using an old American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) system, which encodes a smaller number of characters than the UTF-8.

Web designers are not also excluded from the problem. They build web forms with certain strict conditions, such as (names must contain between 3 or more characters, but not above 10). Those rules are needed to avoid spambots or inaccurate information from going into a database, but they forget to consider that some names may not meet those requirements.

We all tend to be engrossed in our own culture that we become blind to the range of variation in other cultures.

Noëmi Aepli expressed that systems struggle with the two dots above the "e" in her name. It is called a dieresis and looks like an umlaut but has a different function above the “e”. She is a PhD student at the University of Zurich in Switzerland and is known among various databases as Noãmi. When she traveled to California for a six-month session as a visiting student researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, the name on her new ID card read "Naomi".

A social media manager Ashleigh Jayne O’Connell based in Bedfordshire, England, also complains of her name getting mixed up.

The Scottish spelling of Ashleigh and Jayne are both hyphenated(—). She’ll sometimes try to use her nickname "AJ", which can also be rejected for being too short.

Some technology companies have started making adjustments to prevent such problems. Intuit, the parent of TurboTax and QuickBooks, said they know some characters that are not accepted on its online fields and are working toward it. Earlier this year, the company updated its error message from referring to names with characters as “invalid"; instead “special characters are not allowed.”

Such corrections and updates would do the general public good as an error message should be the opportunity to communicate to your user that the product messed up, not them.


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