International character sets such as Chinese and Arabic for domain names are still a year or more away, but one company has developed a workaround allowing Chinese users to send and receive emails in their own language.
Chinglish.com has introduced what it claims to be the world's first email system allowing users to address recipients with Chinese characters or a combination of characters and letters.
The Chinese character element of the application only works between Chinglish account holders, but bilingual account management has been introduced to enable users to continue receiving emails from other email providers.
Chinglish chief executive Marius van Bergen said: "Most non-Chinese businessmen in China know from experience how important it is to have a Chinese name. That is why they have business cards with their Chinese name on the reverse side.
"To them, Chinglish email offers unparalleled opportunities in the trust-building process and in showing commitment to China and its culture."
The very first email message from China was sent in 1986, but it took another decade for the internet to become available to the Chinese public.
The internet being a Western invention, email protocol was originally developed for the Roman alphabet.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers tested international character sets in October last year, and hopes to add character sets such as Chinese and Arabic by 2008.
Chinglish launches Chinese-character email
By Clement James on May 10, 2007 4:40PM