Standardizing icon names: flags

Frans Englich frans.englich at
Wed Nov 10 19:31:00 EET 2004


(CC'd to the participants of the flags sub-thread on the XDG list, 
concerning icon name standardization)

I have re-read the flag discussion, and I see an agreement on the potential 
problems flags causes, but I also find it uncertain how that in concrete 
terms should take form in the specification. I would like to take a last, 
quick look at this issue, before I prepare the second draft.

There is no hesitation for that flags potentially causes trouble, as countless 
of examples and prior discussions shows. The Icon Theme Specification can 
hence not contain anything which poses those problems on anyone who wants to 
conform to the specification. For example, it can under no circumstances 
require distributors to ship actual flags.

However, while flags clearly are complicated in some situations, they are also 
in some case of interest -- some users wants flags, others don't. In other 
words, the flag-dilemma is a subjective and conventional matter, with no 
absolute answers. The specification may not force a definite answer, whether 
flags should be used or not, on anyone, but leave that to the implementors, 
such that flexibility is kept, and the policy decision is where it belongs: 
at the user, or whatever service provider acting on his/her behalf.

The reason to why I want icon names for flags standardized in the 
specification, is to make it easier for /everyone/ to have the flags exactly 
the way they want it, without restraining others. The principle is very 
simple: when the policy decision is done in the icon theme, it's only a 
matter of selecting an icon theme of ones taste, to get whatever flags -- or 
none -- of interest. For example, RedHat, who doesn't want to ship flags, 
will simply use an icon theme with blank icons, and they have solved the flag 
issue for all of their applications.

The alternative is to not have flag-names in the specification. By doing that, 
the highly subjective and touchy decision of using flags or not, have been 
pushed back on individual projects and applications, instead of being coded 
centrally in the icon theme. 

In concrete terms, would the names be "flag-xx" where "xx" is a two-letter 
code for a country, as per ISO 639.

To make it clear: Standardizing the names does not mean everyone have to 
design flags and ship them, it only requires that images are 
there(transparent, blank), or noon at all, if it is known what applications 
will need. That's the point with the icon theme; the design/implementation is 
in the theme.

Alexander(RedHat, Gnome), writes in the thread:

"The only way we would ship this is with blank files for all flag-xx. What use 
is standardizing them then?"

First of all, there are others except RedHat/Gnome that will use the 
specification, so while it won't gain Redhat/Gnome on that particular point, 
it do gain others. Second, one advantage, even for those who won't ship 
"real" flags, is that their work have become simpler; instead of forking 
existing packages or persuading maintainers to follow their opinions in the 
flag issue, they simply use their own icon theme. Less friction, because the 
policy decision is in the theme.

Another comment Alexander did, was that he thought mapping country codes to 
flag symbols is tricky -- but that task is only for those who choose to ship 
flags, it's not a dilemma the specification would create. For example, it's 
not a problem for RedHat since they won't ship flags.

Think twice, and think about everyone the spec will affect, and object if that 
is what you think. Make sure you have a good reason. 

Whatever people prefer, will be what the second draft contains.


KDE Developer

More information about the xdg mailing list