As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m sick of people not being able to spell or pronounce shkspr.mobi correctly. So I’ve decided to double down and start using my alternate domain 莎士比亚.org. It’s pronounced “Sha-shi-bi-ya”, if that helps.
Getting my email account set up with my hosting provider was easy enough but it turned out to be quite tricky to send email to my account.
This is what happened when I tried to send an email from Gmail to test@莎士比亚.org:
The address “test@莎士比亚.org” in the “To” field was not recognised
A Quick Bit of History
The Internet was build and designed for English speaking people. At its core, many systems only understand the Latin alphabet. Not the fancy Latin alphabet with exotic accents and symbols, mind, just A-Z, 0-9, and a handful of punctuation marks. There simply isn’t the capability to do “foreign” characters.
As non-English speakers began to use the Internet, they wanted methods to read and write addresses in their own languages – not an unreasonable desire!
Thus was born “Punycode” – a method to turn non-English characters into something the infrastructure could understand.
For example, 莎士比亚.org is rendered in Punycode as xn--jlq54w7ypemw.org. You don’t have to understand how it works – just accept that it does 🙂
I tried the four most popular free email providers to see if their interfaces would accept the following email addresses as valid destinations:
The results were not encouraging.
The recipient’s address can only contain letters (a-z or A-Z), numbers (0-9) and specific symbols (such as @). Please try again.
Apple’s iCloud was curious. It marked both the IDN and Punycode version in red to indicate that they were invalid. Yet the mail was allowed to send.
However, it immediately failed with this error
Reason: syntax error; address contains 8bit characters
Internationalised Domain Names have existed since 2010. With billions of people accessing the web from non-English speaking countries, it’s essential that web services adapt to accept to serve their needs.
It’s simply inexcusable to alienate so many potential users.