This document describes Postfix support for Email Address Internationalization (EAI) as defined in RFC 6531 (SMTPUTF8 extension), RFC 6532 (Internationalized email headers) and RFC 6533 (Internationalized delivery status notifications). Introduced with Postfix version 3.0, this fully supports UTF-8 email addresses and UTF-8 message header values.
Topics covered in this document:
Postfix will build with SMTPUTF8 support if the ICU library and header files are installed on the system. The package name varies with the OS distribution (and version). The table shows package names for a number of platforms at the time this text was written.
OS Distribution Package FreeBSD, NetBSD, etc. icu Centos, Fedora, RHEL libicu-devel Debian, Ubuntu libicu-dev
To force Postfix to build without SMTPUTF8, specify:
$ make makefiles CCARGS="-DNO_EAI ..."
See the INSTALL document for more "make makefiles" options.
There is more to SMTPUTF8 than just Postfix itself. The rest of your email infrastructure also needs to be able to handle UTF-8 email addresses and message header values. This includes SMTPUTF8 protocol support in SMTP-based content filters (Amavisd), LMTP servers (Dovecot), and down-stream SMTP servers.
Postfix SMTPUTF8 support is enabled by default, but it may be disabled as part of a backwards-compatibility safety net (see the COMPATIBILITY_README file).
SMTPUTF8 support is enabled by setting the smtputf8_enable parameter in main.cf:
# postconf "smtputf8_enable = yes" # postfix reload
(With Postfix ≤ 3.1, you may also need to specify "option_group = client" in Postfix MySQL client files, to enable UTF8 support in MySQL queries. This setting is the default as of Postfix 3.2.)
With SMTPUTF8 support enabled, Postfix changes behavior with respect to earlier Postfix releases:
UTF-8 is the only form of non-ASCII text that Postfix supports in access tables, address rewriting tables, and other tables that are indexed with an email address, hostname, or domain name.
The header_checks-like and body_checks-like features are not UTF-8 enabled, and therefore they do not enforce UTF-8 syntax rules on inputs and outputs. The reason is that non-ASCII text may be sent in encodings other than UTF-8, and that real email sometimes contains malformed headers. Instead of skipping non-UTF-8 content, Postfix should be able to filter it. You may try to enable UTF-8 processing by starting a PCRE pattern with the sequence (*UTF8), but this is will result in "message not accepted, try again later" errors when the PCRE pattern matcher encounters non-UTF-8 input. Other features that are not UTF-8 enabled are smtpd_command_filter, smtp_reply_filter, the *_delivery_status_filter features, and the *_dns_reply_filter features (the latter because DNS is by definition an ASCII protocol).
The Postfix SMTP server announces SMTPUTF8 support in the EHLO response.
220 server.example.com ESMTP Postfix EHLO client.example.com 250-server.example.com 250-PIPELINING 250-SIZE 10240000 250-VRFY 250-ETRN 250-STARTTLS 250-AUTH PLAIN LOGIN 250-ENHANCEDSTATUSCODES 250-8BITMIME 250-DSN 250 SMTPUTF8
The Postfix SMTP server accepts the SMTPUTF8 request in MAIL FROM and VRFY commands.
MAIL FROM:<address> SMTPUTF8 ... VRFY address SMTPUTF8
The Postfix SMTP client may issue the SMTPUTF8 request in MAIL FROM commands.
The Postfix SMTP server accepts UTF-8 in email address domains, but only after the remote SMTP client issues the SMTPUTF8 request in MAIL FROM or VRFY commands.
Postfix already permitted UTF-8 in message header values and in address localparts. This does not change.
After Postfix SMTPUTF8 support is turned on, Postfix behavior will depend on 1) whether a remote SMTP client requests SMTPUTF8 support, 2) the presence of UTF-8 content in the message envelope and headers, and 3) whether a down-stream SMTP (or LMTP) server announces SMTPUTF8 support.
When the Postfix SMTP server receives a message WITHOUT the SMTPUTF8 request, Postfix handles the message as it has always done (at least that is the default, see autodetection below). Specifically, the Postfix SMTP server does not accept UTF-8 in the envelope sender domain name or envelope recipient domain name, and the Postfix SMTP client does not issue the SMTPUTF8 request when delivering that message to an SMTP or LMTP server that announces SMTPUTF8 support (again, that is the default). Postfix will accept UTF-8 in message header values and in the localpart of envelope sender and recipient addresses, because it has always done that.
When the Postfix SMTP server receives a message WITH the SMTPUTF8 request, Postfix will issue the SMTPUTF8 request when delivering that message to an SMTP or LMTP server that announces SMTPUTF8 support. This is not configurable.
When a message is received with the SMTPUTF8 request, Postfix will deliver the message to a non-SMTPUTF8 SMTP or LMTP server ONLY if:
No message header value contains UTF-8.
The envelope sender address contains no UTF-8,
No envelope recipient address for that specific SMTP/LMTP delivery transaction contains UTF-8.
NOTE: Recipients in other email delivery transactions for that same message may still contain UTF-8.
Otherwise, Postfix will return the recipient(s) for that email delivery transaction as undeliverable. The delivery status notification message will be an SMTPUTF8 message. It will therefore be subject to the same restrictions as email that is received with the SMTPUTF8 request.
When the Postfix SMTP server receives a message with the SMTPUTF8 request, that request also applies after the message is forwarded via a virtual or local alias, or $HOME/.forward file.
This section applies only to systems that have SMTPUTF8 support turned on (smtputf8_enable = yes).
For compatibility with pre-SMTPUTF8 environments, Postfix does not automatically set the "SMTPUTF8 requested" flag on messages from non-SMTPUTF8 clients that contain an UTF-8 header value or UTF-8 address localpart. This would make such messages undeliverable to non-SMTPUTF8 servers, and could be a barrier to SMTPUTF8 adoption.
By default, Postfix sets the "SMTPUTF8 requested" flag only on address verification probes and on Postfix sendmail submissions that contain UTF-8 in the sender address, UTF-8 in a recipient address, or UTF-8 in a message header value.
/etc/postfix/main.cf: smtputf8_autodetect_classes = sendmail, verify
However, if you have a non-ASCII myorigin or mydomain setting, or if you have a configuration that introduces UTF-8 addresses with virtual aliases, canonical mappings, or BCC mappings, then you may have to apply SMTPUTF8 autodetection to all email:
/etc/postfix/main.cf: smtputf8_autodetect_classes = all
This will, of course, also flag email that was received without SMTPUTF8 request, but that contains UTF-8 in a sender address localpart, receiver address localpart, or message header value. Such email was not standards-compliant, but Postfix would have delivered it if SMTPUTF8 support was disabled.
The Postfix implementation is a work in progress; limitations are steadily being removed. The text below describes the situation at one point in time.
Some background: According to RFC 6530 and related documents, an internationalized domain name can appear in two forms: the UTF-8 form, and the ASCII (xn--mumble) form. An internationalized address localpart must be encoded in UTF-8; the RFCs do not define an ASCII alternative form.
Postfix currently does not convert internationalized domain names from UTF-8 into ASCII (or from ASCII into UTF-8) before using domain names in SMTP commands and responses, before looking up domain names in lists such as mydestination, relay_domains or in lookup tables such as access tables, etc., before using domain names in a policy daemon or Milter request, or before logging events.
Postfix does, however, casefold domain names and email addresses before matching them against a Postfix configuration parameter or lookup table.
In order to use Postfix SMTPUTF8 support:
The Postfix parameters myhostname and mydomain must be in ASCII form. One is a substring of the other, and the myhostname value is used in SMTP commands and responses that require ASCII. The parameter myorigin (added to local addresses without domain) supports UTF-8.
Milters, content filters, policy servers and logfile analysis tools need to be able to handle both the ASCII and UTF-8 forms of Internationalized domain names.
With Postfix, there is no need to split mailing lists into UTF-8 and non-UTF-8 members. Postfix will try to deliver the non-UTF8 subscribers over "traditional" non-SMTPUTF8 sessions, as long as the message has an ASCII envelope sender address and all-ASCII header values. The mailing list manager may have to apply RFC 2047 encoding to satisfy that last condition.
With "smtputf8_enable = no", Postfix handles email with non-ASCII in address localparts (and in headers) as before. The vast majority of email software is perfectly capable of handling such email, even if pre-SMTPUTF8 standards do not support such practice.
However, when you specify "smtputf8_enable = yes", Postfix requires that non-ASCII address information is encoded in UTF-8 and will reject other encodings such as ISO-8859. It is not practical for Postfix to support multiple encodings at the same time. There is no problem with RFC 2047 encodings such as "=?ISO-8859-1?Q?text?=", because those use only characters from the ASCII characterset.
May 15, 2014: Arnt Gulbrandsen posted his patch for Unicode email support. This work was sponsored by CNNIC.
July 15, 2014: Wietse integrated Arnt Gulbrandsen's code and released Postfix with SMTPUTF8 support.
January 2015: Wietse added UTF-8 support for casefolding in Postfix lookup tables and caseless string comparison in Postfix list-based features.