We all know what an email address looks like and how to validate them, right?
A few years ago I got the Chinese domain name 莎士比亚.org. You can browse to it, link to it, and send email to it. Or can you?
When I tried two years ago, none of the major email providers supported sending to non-ASCII email addresses.
Today, I tried again with six of the big "Western" webmail providers. How did they do?
I tested by trying to send an email to
test@莎士比亚.org and the Punycode representation
Both Gmail and Outlook failed the last time I tried them - I'm very pleased to say that both of them now support sending to Chinese addresses.
One strange thing to note, when looking through Outlook's message details, I found this example of Mojibake.
The Yahoo webmail portal simply wouldn't let me send to a Chinese domain name.
The Punycode representation appeared to send but immediately failed.
Apple's much-vaunted "It Just Works" philosophy obviously doesn't extend to International email addresses. It accepted the Punycode but gave this delightful error message on the Chinese domain.
Microsoft's Outlook Web Access got very confused and tried to look up the email address in the local directory.
Lots of people recommended that I try Fastmail - it really didn't like the look of the Chinese domain and painted it with a red error colour. That said, it sent the email without further complaint.
Email is a venerable protocol. That's a polite way of saying it is old and outdated. The local-part of the email address (
test@) is generally restricted to a handful of 7 Bit ASCII characters. None of the email providers I tried would let me sign up with a Chinese name. So no 你好@yahoo.com for me!
But what happens if you're foolish enough to try to send an email to
Well you'll probably get this error message:
In 2012, RFC 6531 defined how International Email Addresses should work. Over four years later and support is still not widespread.
It's 2016 and the majority of the world can't send an email to their preferred name.