IDN and EAI Support in Thunderbird

Jothan Frakes jothan at
Thu Feb 19 19:46:39 UTC 2015


I am a fellow volunteer on a separate project (the Public Suffix List)
within the Mozilla community for quite a while, and I have been a member of
the ICANN community since ICANN formed (and before).

Anyway, pardon this ask, as I am unfamiliar with the Thunderbird
development realm.

I am writing about IDN and EAI support being added to Thunderbird, across
all supported platforms.

Some context and background on IDN (Pardon this if you're familiar):
IDN = Internationalized Domain Names  (the right of the @)

EAI = Email Address Internationalizion  (Including the left of the @)

ICANN has added a significant number of Internationalized Domain Names
(IDN) at the top level.

For quite a long time (I'll use Chinese as an example but this could be any
allowed language - I've no bias) a person could obtain an address as IDN at
the second level (ex: 中国.cc). Now countries and  companies have IDN at the
top level as well. (ex: 中国.中国).  The expected behavior within software is
that these domains get input or presented and appear in native form from my
examples.  When sent to the resolver to perform lookups, these domains are
converted to 'Punycode' ( or xn--fiqs8s.xn-fiqs8s,
respectively) and sent to DNS.

There are new registries that offer <SLD>.<TLD>.  There are libraries and
well documented RFC for the normalization and conversion process on the to
and from DNS aspect, called IDNA.

EAI is a little more complicated.
While the domain name aspect of the process has standards in place, there
is not a standard yet set for how the comprehensive email address is
handled, most notably the left of the @ sign, but the objective for a user
would be to have them be able to have any of the following email addresses
work in the client, intermediate transports, and then reach and render
correctly on the recipient side:

1] 中国@中国.中国
2] china@中国.中国
3] 中国
4] china at
5] 中国@中国.cc
6] china@中国.cc

There are some really interesting circumstances that can occur with EIA
where a right to left language like Hebrew or Arabic might be on the left
hand of the @ with a left to right language TLD (Or Vice-Versa) which can
reverse the display of the address and be potentially confusing.

*Not knowing decorum here, I'll just throw this out there....  Could I get
an idea around a] IF these enhancements are possible / probable, and b] if
yes, what perhaps costs are on this? I may be able to locate a patron for
this effort / find / fund sourcing for accomplishing them. *

Also, I notice there is a day left in before Summer of Code deadline, but I
suspect this request might be larger than a single line item (or two).  Is
that an appropriate place or is this too late to reasonably accomplish this?

Again, pardon the question, and I have mad respect for the volunteers
working on keeping Thunderbird going.  As a long-time volunteer on the PSL,
I know it can be a lot of work and you're not expecting kudos - but I thank
you for your time and service.


Jothan Frakes
Tel: +1.206-355-0230
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