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Chinese e-mail addresses coming soon
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By Wu Huanshu & Keen Zhang
China.org.cn staff reporters

Internet users will be able to choose Chinese language e-mail addresses when a new multi-lingual standard is implemented.

The E-mail Address Internationalization (EAI) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is working on a standard that will allow users to send E-mail messages to addresses such as 中国@中国.中国. Currently E-mail addresses have to be made up of 7 bit ASCII characters that cannot represent Chinese script.

The proposed standard was published by the IETF in three Requests for Comments (RFC), RFC5335, RFC5336, and RFC5336, that cover changes to Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) protocol, E-mail message format and Delivery Status Notifications. Li Xiaodong, co-chairman of the EAI working group and vice director of China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), told China.org.cn that they would be incorporated into a formal standard around the end of 2008.

Li told China.org.cn today that it marks the beginning of the end for English-only E-mail addresses.

Once the new standard is implemented, China's 253 million Internet users will be able to send E-mails to addresses defined in Chinese characters. As English E-mail addresses get ever longer to avoid duplication, Chinese people, who are used to three character names, are finding them increasingly difficult to handle. That problem may be solved quite soon.

The incorporation of the standard into software products depends on the commercial decisions of software vendors. Li said that his working group includes Microsoft, Qualcomm, Sendmail, Google, SUN and IBM, all of which intend to develop local language E-mail services in 2009. But he admitted that domestic E-mail service providers and software vendors might lag behind.

China's CNNIC has been involved in E-mail address research since 2001 and pushed for the EAI working group to be established. Li Xiaodong and Harald Alvestrand co-chaired the working group from its inception in March 2006, and the release of the three RFCs in August 2008 was the culmination of years of hard work.

The three RFCs can be found at:


(China.org.cn September 27, 2008)

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