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Gmail gains support for non-ASCII email addresses

Chocolate Factory also reveals kill switch for bothersome listbots

Google Chocolate Factory

Google has decided to give a two-year-old IETF e-mail standard a push towards universal adoption, by switching on support for RFC 6530 international character support in Gmail.

The RFC was crafted to allow people “to use close variations on their own names (written correctly in their own languages and scripts) as mailbox names in email addresses”, rather than being constrained by English character sets.

As the Chocolate Factory notes in its announcement, adopting a new e-mail standard is difficult since every server between sender and recipient has to support the character sets used for addressing.

That creates a chicken-and-egg problem Google wants to solve by jumping first: “In order for this standard to become a reality, every email provider and every website that asks you for your email address must adopt it. That’s obviously a tough hill to climb. The technology is there, but someone has to take the first step,” the post states.

Of course, there's also an upside for Google. If the best way to have e-mail exchanges between people with non-ASCII addresses is for them both to be on Gmail, users will gravitate in that direction. Since most of the anglophone world is saturated with e-mail addresses, support for international character sets gives Google a strong foothold in non-ASCII (or Unicode) growth markets.

However, it will also put pressure on anyone operating a mail server to get RFC 6530 support working, since they won't want to be bouncing messages back to Gmail because they don't support the addresses.

In this sponsored post at CircleID, “Dot Chinese Online” tested Gmail and noted that Google's paid attention to the small details, like converting the “Chinese dot” (a small circle) into an ASCII dot to comply with IETF standards.

In a separate announcement Google is going to bring "unsubscribe" links for list e-mails to the top of the message, next to the "from" address.

"Now when a sender includes an 'Unsubscribe' link in a Promotions, Social or Forums message, Gmail will surface it to the top, right next to the sender address. If you’re interested in the message’s content, it won’t get in the way, and if not, it’ll make it easier to keep your inbox clutter-free", the announcement states. ®

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