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email address internationalization (EAI)

Email address internationalization (EAI) is a process that enables email addresses with either the domain name or mailbox name in different languages and scripts to work properly when sending and receiving emails. These may include email addresses represented in Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Japanese or Tamil scripts. For instance, if an individual tried to email another person using an email address ending in .онлайн (.online), but the recipient’s email box is not EAI-ready, their message would never be received and they would not be able to communicate with each other.

Email software and service providers must make specific changes to accept and send internationalized email addresses. These changes could include making sure their applications are compatible with Unicode characters for usernames and the Internationalized Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) 2008 standard for domain names, as well as ensuring their support of EAI is announced when conversing with other email systems. This may require the service providers to deploy and configure a specific set of tools and versions which support EAI.

Without these updates, many people will be unable to send or receive emails from valid email addresses worldwide. Therefore, EAI is one of the foundational requirements for supporting multilingual email-based communication and EAI-ready software is key to allowing individuals to successfully use an email address in their language of choice.

History of EAI

Since its inception, the domain name system (DNS) has expanded to include more than 1,500 top-level domain names, many of which are in different scripts. However, not all email systems can process internationalized email addresses. Therefore, email software and services must make specific software infrastructure changes to support such email addresses.

While there has been an increase in the tools, documentation and adoption of internationalized domain names and email addresses in local languages and scripts, more pervasive deployment of software still needs to be done to ensure that such communication is dependable. Supporting EAI is part of a larger effort called universal acceptance (UA), which is a best practice that ensures all domain names and email addresses work with all applications, devices and systems. UA focuses on helping make the internet accessible and inclusive of the next billion users, most of whom will likely use different languages and scripts and will require multilingual support.

Rules of EAI

The Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG) is a consortium supported by ICANN that is made up of individual experts and more than 170 organizations from across the globe, including Apple, GoDaddy, Google, Microsoft and Verisign. The UASG has created various UA-readiness guides and documentation to help CIOs and developers understand the basic tenets of UA, as well as documentation specific to EAI.

Additionally, the UASG has generated test domains, built landing pages and developed a list of email addresses that companies can use to test their email systems, such as user@ رسيل.السعودية and 测试4@ua-test.世界. Finally, anyone can check to see if their mail server supports EAI addresses or contact the UASG directly with questions through their website.

This was last updated in August 2019

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