Soon in a Mail Box Near You: Internationalized Email Addresses

By Patrick Vande Walle
Patrick Vande Walle

The EAI working group of the IETF has finished (part of) its work on the interationalization of email addresses. This, together with Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) will make it possible to send email messages to non-7 bit ASCII addresses e.g. måtte@kø or 中国@中国.中国 .

There are 3 RFCs, covering changes to the SMTP protocol, e-mail message format and delivery Status Notifications.

They still have the "Experimental" status, meaning they are not yet a standard. How long this will take to see them in actual products is difficult to guess. Software vendors tend to look at market demand before implementing new features . Hence, it is time to pressure your favourite e-mail client vendor. Tell them you need that. For Microsoft Outlook, you could try here. For Apple Mail, there. For Mozilla Thunderbird, still somewhere else.

By Patrick Vande Walle, All around Internet governance troublemaker. Visit the blog maintained by Patrick Vande Walle here.

Related topics: Email, Multilinguism


Experimental status is underwhelming The Famous Brett Watson  –  Sep 08, 2008 6:50 PM PST

"Experimental" status means that the RFCs aren't even being proposed as a standard — they are not on the standards track. That's not to say that they shouldn't be implemented, but let's not misrepresent their status with the the suggestion that they are on track to becoming standards. This is more like running them up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.

This is more like running them up Patrick Vande Walle  –  Sep 08, 2008 10:52 PM PST

This is more like running them up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.

You are correct these are not standards yet. This is why I suggest to pressure software vendors. When they will realize that most of their markets do not use 7-bit ASCII and that there is a proposed specification, they will have no excuse anymore. It's up to them to start working on the specs and ask for these specifications to be put on the standards track.

While the basic ideas are sound some Kio Boskden  –  Sep 09, 2008 11:59 AM PST

While the basic ideas are sound some of the details are going to cause problems.

> the use of normalization form NFC is RECOMMENDED

I'd really love to know the reason for this brilliant idea. This should be MUST instead of RECOMMENDED. The most obvious problem are hash computations and string indexing - both basic building blocks of most anti-spam systems.

If there are only 4 instances of say ö there are 2^4=16 possible MD5 hashs for the "same" header text…