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Re: The Cypherpunks Mail Project

I am in full agreement with Fen's comments regarding MIME.  Let me add
a short bit of history here.  MIME came about because of an effort
within the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) to extend Internet
mail standards to support 8-bit extended character sets and (gasp) to
potentially even support the sending of arbitrary binary data.  A
working group was formed and it took several months and literally
thousands of messages before some form of consensus was reached on the
technical issues (note -- not the solution, just the issues!).

To make a long story short, it quickly became obvious that there was
no agreed upon solution which would both provide the functionality the
various camps wanted, and backwards compatability for the million or
so hosts currently on the Internet.  The MIME effort was a creative
stroke of genius which allowed us to get out of this fix.  Simply put,
it allows for a) arbitrary data types to be encoded into 7-bit ASCII
and transported using standard RFC-821 SMTP, and b) the structuring of
chunks of different data type "parts" into a single e-mail message
such that MIME-aware mail-agents/readers can intelligently display
multi-media mail intelligently.  In other words, the problem was moved
from the protocol space to the applications space.

Why is this relevant?  Well, in order for MIME to be useful, the mail
readers that people use have to be modified to support MIME.
Fortunately, Nathaniel Borenstein of Bellcore has assembled a kit to
make this much easier, and in fact provides patches for many mailers.
Now, the authors of all the freebie mail readers we use are being
asked to incorporate these changes into their mailers.  Do we really
want to give them an additional burden -- or do we want to leverage
off work that is already being done?


PS:  For those who are interested, these are the relevant RFC's:

1344  Implications of MIME for Internet mail gateways.  Borenstein, N.  1992 
      June; 8 p. (Format: TXT=25872, PS=51812 bytes)

1343  User agent configuration mechanism for multimedia mail format 
      information.  Borenstein, N.  1992 June; 10 p. (Format: TXT=29295, 
      PS=59978 bytes)

1342  Representation of non-ASCII text in Internet message headers.  Moore, K.
      1992 June; 7 p. (Format: TXT=15845 bytes)

1341  MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions): Mechanisms for specifying 
      and describing the format of Internet message bodies.  Borenstein, N.; 
      Freed, N.  1992 June; 69 p. (Format: TXT=211117, PS=347082 bytes)