The address formerly known as email – what Gmail’s ‘international’ support means

Andrew Gretton, dotmailer’s Lead Developer, provides his twinkly insight on Gmail’s latest announcement.

Gmail are staying on the cutting edge of tech, and made a recent announcement that they’re going to start supporting “international” email addresses. What does that mean? Well…


That’s great news for all countries who don’t use the Latin alphabet this article is written in, right?

Well, it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s tremendously hard.

Email addresses were defined in 1982, and the rules are pretty straightforward – you can be But even today, 32 years later, you’ll still find lots of places where a normal email address isn’t accepted. Irish readers may well be familiar with problems experienced when trying to use an apostrophe in an email address, because lots of web forms, even at larger retailers, forget that this is allowed. And Microsoft Exchange, an email heavyweight, forgot to allow the “#” sign in email addresses until 2010!

Much software and most of the internet has been built around the idea that certain letters are equivalent.  If we receive a complaint from, we aren’t then going to allow the same user to send an email to michael.faß because it’s (probably) the same person. Our implementation of Microsoft SQL server tells us this is the same email address, but if Gmail tells us differently perhaps we’re now gearing up for a fisticuffs between Google and Microsoft.

Prince logo

With that kind of inertia, it’s hard to imagine someone using an international Gmail address as their only email address, purely because there will be so many places that it won’t be accepted. It’s kind of like electric cars, or bitcoin – they’re a neat idea, but you can’t use them everywhere. Yet…

So who is going to opt for an email address which they can’t use to order things on Amazon, and none of their friends will be able to email them at?

This is certainly an exciting development and, for our part, we’ll be watching closely to see how this develops. dotmailer already supports international domain names in email addresses.  We’ll keep on top of any changes in the future.

Let us know your thoughts below, or tweet us with the Gmail address that you wish you could have.

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