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“Cyrillic and the Internet, in Serbia and around the world” panel debate


On the second anniversary of the .СРБ internet domain, on 27th January 2014, the Serbian National Internet Domain Registry (RNIDS), organised a panel debate called “Cyrillic and the Internet, in Serbia and around the world”  at the Belgrade Centre for the Promotion of Science.

It is easy to forget in Serbia that the issue of Cyrillic in digital technologies is not just a problem here but one faced by many other countries that use Cyrillic as an official script. Similar problems are also being encountered by other ethnic groups and countries where scripts other than the English alphabet are in use. Participating in the discussion – which was moderated by Tamara Vučenović, journalist and editor of the Digitalne Ikone radio program – were representatives of the academic and professional communities both at home and abroad.

First off, Dr Biljana Dojčinović, lecturer at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, presented the Knjiženstvo project, which is dedicated to the theory and history of women’s literature in the Serbian language up to 1915.

Dr Žarko Mijajlović, full professor of the Belgrade Faculty of Mathematics talked about the work of the National Centre for Digitisalization and its projects such as the Virtual Library and the Digital Catalogue of Monuments of Culture in Serbia.

Milenko Vasić, IT journalist and associate of the SANU (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts) Board for Standardisation of the Serbian Language, gave an overview from his wealth of experience in editing and publishing computer magazines in Serbia including all the problems which arise along the way: character encodings, fonts and the transcription of English words into Serbian, to name but a few. His conclusion was that many of the problems could have been solved much earlier had the government shown more interest in the issue of the Serbian script.

Visiting speaker from Switzerland was Werner Staub, member of the Executive Committee of the CORE Internet Council of Registrars, the organisation that serves as the register of the Cyrillic gTLD domains .САЙТ and .ОНЛАЙН, which are intended for use in the Russian, Bulgarian and similar markets, since sites on Cyrillic domains are more easily found in Google’s country-specific search results when searching from countries using Cyrillic scripts.

Sašo Dimitrijoski, director of MARnet, the Macedonian national Internet register, noted that Macedonia would soon get its own Cyrillic IDN, .МКД, and was planning activities along the lines of those implemented by RNIDS two years ago. However they also faced similar problems with the use of Cyrillic on PCs, such as a lack of Cyrillic keyboards.

Dušan Stojičević, chair of the RNIDS Board of Governors, as one of the hosts of the meeting, responded to numerous questions from journalists and members of the public. He explained that the main problem faced by the .СРБ domain, and by the other IDN domains around the world, was the current technical barrier to using letters from a non-English alphabet to the right of the ‘@’ in email addresses. The problem can be resolved locally, but a global solution for all world scripts has yet to be implemented.