GMail goes Japanese

Kind of….I’m sure most people think gmail is the bomb but until today it didn’t work in Japanese as it only supported Unicode. Only supporting unicode sounds like a great idea since that handles all languages but people that are not using a unicode capable email client will not be able to read your non-English mail.  While you might think that would not be common in 2005 it’s actually very common in Japan.  It’s the 200 million cell phones where most Japanese email happens that only support Japanese encodings.

So, today, gmail finally added more languages and if you set your language to Japanese it will send your mail in a Japanese encoding.  That fixes it for Japanese people, unfortunately it’s still broken for non Japanese people trying to communicate with the Japanese since those people (like me) would prefer to run gmail with an English interface but still have it send in Japanese.  That unfortunately is still not an option.

This is the kind of crap that happens when programmers don’t eat their own dogfood.

“Eating your own dog food is the quaint name that we in the computer industry give to the process of actually using your own product. I had forgotten how well it worked, until a month ago…” (from

  • TheMatt

    I guess I wouldn’t have thought about this. I’ve spent so much time making just about every web/email device I have Unicode-compliant, that I don’t think of the other encodings anymore. I guess it makes sense that cell phones wouldn’t be Unicode (would take, what, twice the space per message?), but I’m still surprised those modern phones you have in “everywhere-but-America” aren’t.

  • alien8

    i *STILL* don’t have a GMail account… i’m going for reverse eliteness.

    i hope to be the last person on the planet without a GMail account.

    anyways, yeah, there’s still alot of webmail and email clients that don’t properly handle japanese (or other non-english languages) in utf-8.

    i’m guessing that since google is so web-focused they didn’t bother to take the time to figure out that web content and email content are in fact different.

    in other news, the latest version of squirrelmail will properly handle japanese content mail even with english preference settings.

  • Bob

    Sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have no trouble composing, sending, and receiving Japanese email in Gmail even though I use the English interface.

  • webmail

    My buddy setup an account for me in Yahoo Japan in early 2006. He did this because he felt that most japanese emails need a strong japanese computing system…not part english, part japanese I guess.

    So yeah, I’m a begginer at this cool nihongo language and its a bit hard to navigate but it helps me learn and appreciate another culture’s computing culture.