[mailhist-discuss] Segments of email history

Craig Partridge craig at aland.bbn.com
Tue Apr 10 06:57:40 PDT 2012

On Apr 3, 2012, at 3:45 PM, Dave Crocker wrote:

> On 3/31/2012 9:38 AM, Craig Partridge wrote:
>> Seamless email relaying
> This struck me as an interesting and unexpected item.
> Plus I like having the lead being the summary of the innovation and I recommend 
> it for all our discussions.  That is, for any candidate, we should lead with its 
> value proposition.  What did it do that changed things?
> This particular one hadn't occurred to me and yet it was of massive importance 
> for infrastructure operation. It really came in two stages that probably should 
> be marked separately:
>      1. Seamless addressing, with the DNS.  The domain name system provided a 
> naming overlay that became universal and supplanted local-part source-routing 
> hacks of %, !, etc., for relaying across heterogeneous administrations and 
> technologies.  (I could argue that the %-hack wasn't strictly source-routing, 
> but it would be a very weak argument and it doesn't matter for this item...)
>      2. Email routing, with the MX record.  Allowed remote sites to be as easy 
> to contact as ones "directly" connected to the network  core.  As routing 
> protocols go, this one is remarkably simplistic and yet it has proved 
> sufficient.  And it took some iterations to  get right.

Agree that these were separate -- but oddly enough they got resolved within weeks of each other.
The decision by UUNET, CSNET and BITNET to use DNS names took place in a meeting in January
of 1986, the same month the MX record was announced.   And it is not entirely coincidental.  UUNET,
CSNET and BITNET were already on a path to adopt DNS names as they needed hierarchy.  But at the
January meeting at ISI, one of the questions that came up was how easy was relaying going to be -- and
the Internet folks at the meeting (including me) said "MX RRs will do everything necessary if you simply forward addresses
that your network doesn't recognize to an Internet gateway".

>> Mark Horton's creation of uuencode/uudecode.
> I'd label this "First de facto 'attachment' convention".  Was it in fact the 
> first that gained widespread adoption?

As best I can tell, yes it was the first one that gained widespread adoption.  It also had an innovative feature -- no special handling of
the received message was required beyond passing the message to uudecode.   No removing headers, touching up fields, etc…



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