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New gTLDs still a crappy choice for email — study

Kevin Murphy, September 28, 2017, 15:17:27 (UTC), Domain Tech

New gTLDs may not be the best choice of domain for a primary email address, judging by new research.

Over 20% of the most-popular web sites do not fully understand email addresses containing long TLDs, and Arabic email addresses are supported by fewer than one in 10 sites, a study by the Universal Acceptance Steering Group has found.

Twitter, IBM and the Financial Times are among those sites highlighted as having only partial support for today’s wide variety of possible email addresses.

Only 7% of the sites tested were able to support all types of email address.

The study, carried out by Donuts and ICANN staff, looked at 749 websites (in the top 1,000 or so as ranked by Alexa) that have forms for filling in email addresses.

On each site, seven different email addresses were input, to see whether the site would accept them as valid.

The emails used different combinations of ASCII and Unicode before the dot and mixes of internationalized domain name and ASCII at the second and top levels.

These were the results (click to enlarge or download the PDF of the report here):

IDN emails

The problem with these numbers, it seems to me, is the lack of a control. There’s no real baseline to judge the numbers against.

There’s no mention in the paper about testing addresses that use .com or decades-old ccTLDs, which would have highlighted web sites that with broken scripts that reject all emails.

But if we assume, as the paper appears to, that all the tested web sites were 100% compliant for .com domains, the scores for new gTLDs are not great.

There are currently over 800 TLDs over four characters in length, but according to the UASG research 22% of web sites will not recognize them.

There are 150 IDN TLDs, but a maximum of 30% of sites will accept them in email addresses.

When it comes to right-to-left scripts, such as Arabic, the vast majority of sites are totally hopeless.

UASG dug into the code of the tested sites when it could and found that most of them use client-side code — JavaScript processing a regular expression — to verify addresses.

A regular expression is complex bit of code that can look something like this: /^.+@(?:[^.]+\.)+(?:[^.]{2,})$

It’s not every coder’s cup of tea, but it can get the job done with minimal client-side resource overheads. Most coders, the UASG concludes, copy regex they found on a forum and maybe tweak it a bit.

This should not be shocking news to anyone. I’ve known about it since 2009 or earlier when I first started ripping code from StackOverflow.

However, the UASG seems to be have been working on the assumption that more sites are using off-the-shelf software libraries, which would have allowed the problem to be fixed in a more centralized fashion.

It concludes in its paper that much greater “awareness raising” needs to happen before universal acceptance comes closer to reality.

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Comments (6)

  1. I use a .EMAIL for my email but I am worried about the .MAIL new gTLD to launch. Status is on-hold (means anything can happen). Would .MAIL launch, I’ll change email.

  2. Luis Muñoz says:

    Considering the dismal record of proper email support on web forms everywhere, this result is not surprising.

    It’s still the norm to stumble upon web forms that claim that email addresses including the plus sign (as in foo+website.bar@tld.invalid) are invalid.

  3. Richard Funden says:

    I love my .email email address. Yes, some companies do not accept it as a valid email address in their online forms (cough, Vodafone, cough), but I never had an issue with someone not receiving my mails.

  4. The lack of universal acceptance may not change until a big tech company (with its own stable of nTLDs) starts throwing its weight around. I wonder which company that will be…

  5. The difficult life of early enthusiasts – the pioneers who defy the broken norms. Change is coming!

    Colin

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