Late this afternoon (Tuesday, August 5th, 2014), Google announced a long-awaited and highly anticipated change that took place today with Gmail, which will surely be remembered as one of the most important milestones in the history of internet email: The "client-side" implementation of non-Latin, character-based Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) email.
To say this announcement is "huge" is putting it lightly.
While the world's relevant standards-setting body, the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) has had a ratified standard for non-English email since 2012, not a single provider of email services — not Google, not Yahoo, not Hotmail, not Microsoft's Outlook, not any of the Chinese providers — actually supported the IETF standard.
Before today, this meant that while you could get an "IDN email" address for your non English domain name — say, 夏明@域通联达。在线 (translated: firstname.lastname@example.org in Chinese), nobody could actually send you emails to that address!
Today, thanks to Google, this English-specific email address barrier has been broken, and will now allow non-English speaking email users to email in their native language, making the process of emailing faster, easier, and more efficient. And that's the way the internet should be for everyone, regardless of what language you speak.
In the announcement, Software Engineer Pedro Chaparro Monferrer states, "Less than half of the world's population has a mother tongue that uses the Latin alphabet. And even fewer people use only the letters A-Z."
Testing IDN Email in Gmail
Within minutes of learning about Gmail's new multi-lingual capabilities, we tested the system. In the screenshot below, we have addressed a new standard Gmail message to an IDN Email address. Note that we used the "Chinese dot" (。) rather than the ASCII/English dot (.) which is what a typical Chinese user would do when typing a Chinese email address.
Then we hit send. The message was accepted by Google's email server, and the message was on its way!
In the screenshot below, you can see that Gmail was particularly nice and converted the Chinese dot to an ASCII dot, so as to not break the IETF standard for IDN email. Nice touch, Gmail!
Today, the internet changed for the better for around half of Earth's internet users
Google understands that the number of people around the world that experience difficulty using email simply because of what language they speak, is exponentially high.
Thanks to Google, the confusion, hassle, and inconvenience of using English-only email addresses is now considerably diminished, and will eventually be completely dissolved.
We applaud Google and are very excited that our many owners of Chinese domain names can finally use email. As the first email client technology provider in the world to support the IETF standard, the company has taken a big step towards breaking the unfair hegemony of English in email, and the internet in general.
"Language should never be a barrier when it comes to connecting with others and with this step forward, truly global email is now even closer to becoming a reality," Chaparro Monferrer wrote.
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