[mailhist-discuss] Definition of email

Ray Tomlinson rstomlinson at gmail.com
Thu Jun 7 12:22:51 PDT 2012


  My $.02

On 6/7/2012 11:06 AM, Terry Gray wrote:
> slight mod, v2:
>
> Electronic mail (Email) is a service provided by computer programs to 
> send  messages from the user of one computer account to the personal 
> mailbox(es) of others for later retrieval.  An electronic mail message 
> consists of packaged data, analogous to a physical letter, specifying 
> one or more authors and one or more recipients.
Getting close...

Perhaps "computer account" is not relevant. There are accounts involved, 
but they are a mechanism for identifying a user and his mailbox and a 
basis for providing privacy. A computer with no login required and an 
array of mailboxes named by their respective users would work just fine. 
There would be no computer account. There would also be no protection, 
but I think it would still qualify as email.

Maybe we can find a better phrase than "packaged data", too.

Early versions of email (CTSS, SNDMSG) did not identify the recipient; 
if the message was in your mailbox you were a recipient.

I think a slightly reworded version of the first sentence above captures 
the essence of email.

Electronic mail (Email) is a service that allows a computer user to send 
messages to the mailboxes of other computer users for later reading.

Anything beyond that needs a justification. Even "computer user" is open 
to misinterpretation. It implies a person using a computer, but allows 
Amazon to automatically send order status messages if you think the 
daemon that does the sending is a computer user. The nature of the 
message is a particularly slippery slope; almost any statement here will 
have numerous exceptions. Is it text? No. Are the recipients named? Not 
in early versions where no routing was involved. Is the sender named? 
Again, not in early versions and not in spam.

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