[mailhist-discuss] Definition of email

John Vittal jjvittal at earthlink.net
Thu Jun 7 06:54:58 PDT 2012

Here are some ramblings.  (Sorry I've been too busy to participate in 
the conversation to date.)

The following differs pretty significantly from those that Dave 
summarizes below.  It separates email (the object) from the system that 
manipulates that object.  Which is also pretty significantly different 
than the Wikipedia definition <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Email>.

An electronic message (email) to my mind is a digital object that is 
defined by property value pairs (as noted in RFC733 and its followers).  
Depending on how it is structured, it could be construed as having 
contents and an envelope, however that doesn't necessarily hold for 
memos and postcards if you're drawing equivalencies.  The object 
includes the principal message (which may be unstructured text, but 
which may also be highly formatted also (e.g. based on html) and 
therefore having some structure) and any attachments (appendicies, 
exhibits, etc., whatever the name you wish to use at the moment) thereto.

An email system is a set of programs on various computers that provides 
services that allows a user to create, send, receive, and store email, 
and includes all of the ancillary operations (e.g. an address book) to 
facilitate those operations on a distributed, networked, heterogeneous 
set of computers.



On 6/7/12 4:11 AM, Dave Crocker wrote:
> On 6/5/2012 9:01 PM, Jack Haverty wrote:
>> Someday, electronic mail might be invented.  It hasn't happened yet.
> Jack's note nicely highlights the challenge we face, in distinguishing
> between the abstract ideal versus something less lofty but more current
> and (widely) used.
> We have two definitions offered:
>      Haigh:
>         Electronic mail is a service provided by computer programs to send
> unstructured textual messages of about the same length as paper letters
> from the account of one user to recipients' personal electronic
> mailboxes, where they are stored for later retrieval.
>      Crocker, as modified:
>         An electronic message (email) is a collection of data, packaged
> to specify one or more authors, addressed to one or more recipients and
> stored for later access by recipients.
> (While Jack's note provides some nice background and guidance, I
> couldn't extract an actual definition.)
> Although related, the definitions have significant differences.
> Can we get some discussion seeking to converge on a single definition?
> d/

More information about the mailhist-discuss mailing list