Back in January while trying to debug an issue one of our clients was having with an IDN domain name ie. a domain name with an accent on it I decided to dive into the world of IDN email.
As I noted, while some software was able to handle things “sanely” a lot of it wasn’t and overall the experience wasn’t exactly “wonderful”.
If the DNS industry and the broader technology side of the internet wants to remain relevant and interact successfully with new generations of users then it really needs to become more user friendly.
I recently launched my personal newsletter. I’m using an email marketing service to handle most of the “heavy lifting” for me as I really don’t want to deal with the headaches of running more infrastructure. It also gave me a fantastic opportunity to test out a few different services to see what they’re doing and how. I was interested in using an email service that was based in Europe if at all possible, which is why I didn’t just take the “easy” route and stick with MailChimp.
One of the things I decided to test out was their support for IDN emails ie. email addresses with accents in them. I still have the domain micheál.ie from my earlier testing.
What functions did I test?
The way I look at it there’s two parts to email:
So can any of these platforms send from an IDN email address?
And how about sending to an IDN email address?
Surely that’s easier?
Which email marketing platforms did I try?
I’ll admit I have not tested every single email marketing platform out there. I tested a few of the more popular ones that had a usable free tier. If anyone knows of others that I should try that support IDNs please let me know via the comments.
- Email Octopus
Can you send from an IDN domain name?
Short answer: no.
None of the platforms I tested would let me add an IDN domain name to their systems as a sending domain. Email Octopus would let me add a single email address at my IDN domain name to their system as a sender, but converted it to the punycode. There’s no option to setup SPF, CNAME, DMARC, DKIM etc., records for that email address so while it “can” send email deliverability will be a nightmare. The only way to resolve that would be by adding the actual domain name to the system, which of course they won’t allow.
They all threw an error of some kind when I tried to add the domain name to their system. They usually didn’t recognise it as being a “valid” domain name.
Can you receive emails if your domain (email address) is an IDN?
Short answer: maybe
While being able to fully configure a domain name to send email from a platform does require a bit of work adding an email address to a mailing list is relatively straightforward. However the various platforms all do some form of syntax validation of email addresses. So the results can be a little “off”.
MailChimp will let you add IDN email addresses to lists, though they’ll convert them to punycode.
MailJet – I managed to bludgeon in an email address into a list, but it wasn’t pretty. So no that was far from a success.
Maillerlite will let you add IDN emails to a list, but they’ll want it to be punycode of course.
Email Octopus seems to be much happier with the concept, though again it does convert the email address to punycode.
If you’re hoping to setup an email newsletter with your nice shiny domain name with its correct spelling then you’re out of luck. You’ll have to stick to using a “safe” domain name that doesn’t have any accents of any kind.
If you just need to send emails to people who use IDN email addresses then you’ve got a few options, but the overall user experience isn’t great.
If anyone knows of an email service that supports IDN email addresses properly please let me know via the comments.