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Thunderbird (in German) uses the charset ISO-8859-15 (or -1, can't check right now) by default for outgoing and incoming mails. (If you want to change the default, see Change Thunderbird default encoding?)

I wonder why TB doesn't use UTF-8 as default. So I searched for it and the only reason I found was, that some older mail servers and clients couldn't handle UTF-8. I read the issue (closed as "WONTFIX"), but couldn't find a concrete list which servers/clients/providers would have problems handling UTF-8.

Will you get problems if you send your mails UTF-8 encoded today?

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Postel's principle is a good default. Of course everyone should change that and use utf-8 :·) – Nikana Reklawyks Nov 7 '12 at 4:09
@NikanaReklawyks: One could maybe say that it's an application of Postel's principle, not a violation, if you only send UTF-8 and not all sorts of legacy, incompatible, and often wrongly declared character sets... – grawity Aug 27 '14 at 18:10
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Mail servers shouldn't have any problems at all, since they are not supposed to parse message headers and especially body. The only thing that matters is that the encodings should be supersets of ASCII – which both ISO-8859 and UTF-8 are... Besides, many messages still are 7-bit encoded (either Quoted-Printable or Base64) before sending, just in case it has to travel through a non-8-bit-clean server (even though all mail servers have been 8-bit-clean in the past 10 years).

Mail clients... honestly, I haven't seen any that lack support for UTF-8 for many years. (Perhaps somebody else has?)

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