Mailbox provider

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A mailbox provider, mail service provider or, somewhat improperly, [1] email service provider is a provider of email hosting. It implements email servers to send, receive, accept, and store email for other organizations or end users, on their behalf.

Contents

The term "mail service provider" was coined in the Internet Mail Architecture document RFC   5598. [2]

Types

There are various kinds of email providers. There are paid and free ones, possibly sustained by advertising. Some allow anonymous users, whereby a single user can get multiple, apparently unrelated accounts. Some require full identification credentials; for example, a company may provide email accounts to full-time staff only. Often, companies, universities, organizations, groups, and individuals that manage their mail servers themselves adopt naming conventions that make it straightforward to identify who is the owner of a given email address. Besides control of the local names, insourcing may provide for data confidentiality, network traffic optimization, and fun.

Mailbox providers typically accomplish their task by implementing Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and possibly providing access to messages through Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), the Post Office Protocol, Webmail, or a proprietary protocol. [3] Parts of the task can still be outsourced, for example virus and spam filtering of incoming mail, or authentication of outgoing mail.

ISP-based email

Many mailbox providers are also access providers. [4] Not the core product, their email services could lack some interesting features, such as IMAP, Transport Layer Security, or SMTP Authentication —in fact, an ISP can do without the latter, as it can recognize its clients by the IP addresses it assigns them.

Free mail providers

AOL Mail, Hotmail, Lycos, Mail.com, Yahoo! Mail, launched in the 1990s, are among the early providers of free email accounts, joined by GMail in 2004. They attract users because they are free and can advertise their service on every message. According to Jurvetson, Hotmail grew from zero to 12 million users in 18 months. [5] That was before it was bought by Microsoft.

Premium email services

These are the paid equivalent of free mail providers. That is, a better alternative to ISP-based email. Much less popular than free mail, they target a niche of users.

Vanity email

It is also possible to run a shim service, providing no access but just forwarding all messages to another account, which does not lend itself to direct use, for example because it is temporary or just less appealing.

Role as identifier

A mailbox provider is the administrator of the registered domain name that forms the domain-part of its email addresses. As such, it controls the MX records that specify which hosts will receive email destined to those addresses. The operators of those hosts define the meaning of the local-part of an address by associating it to a mailbox, which in turn can be associated to a user. [6] The mailbox provider also specifies how users can read their mail, possibly creating SRV records to ease email client configuration, or giving detailed instructions.

Email addresses are convenient tokens for identifying people, even at web sites unrelated to email. In fact, they are unique, and allow password reminders to be sent at will.

From a bureaucracy-oriented point of view, there is no formal undertaking beyond domain name registration. This role is based on IETF standards, and, unlike X.400 and other ITU-T works, in and of itself requires no arrangements with local authorities. The notion of Administration Management Domain (ADMD) is derived afterwards, from empirical evidence. [2] However, local authorities concerned with Internet privacy issues may add rules and requisites on top of the original Internet email design.

See also

Related Research Articles

Email Method of exchanging digital messages between people over a network

Electronic mail is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using electronic devices. Email entered limited use in the 1960s, but users could only send to users of the same computer, and some early email systems required the author and the recipient to both be online simultaneously, similar to instant messaging. Ray Tomlinson is credited as the inventor of email; in 1971, he developed the first system able to send mail between users on different hosts across the ARPANET, using the @ sign to link the user name with a destination server. By the mid-1970s, this was the form recognized as email.

In computing, the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) is an Internet standard protocol used by email clients to retrieve email messages from a mail server over a TCP/IP connection. IMAP is defined by RFC 3501.

Within the Internet email system, a message transfer agent or mail transfer agent (MTA) or mail relay is software that transfers electronic mail messages from one computer to another using SMTP. The terms mail server, mail exchanger, and MX host are also used in some contexts.

In computing, the Post Office Protocol (POP) is an application-layer Internet standard protocol used by e-mail clients to retrieve e-mail from a mail server.

The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is a communication protocol for electronic mail transmission. As an Internet standard, SMTP was first defined in 1982 by RFC 821, and updated in 2008 by RFC 5321 to Extended SMTP additions, which is the protocol variety in widespread use today. Mail servers and other message transfer agents use SMTP to send and receive mail messages. SMTP servers commonly use the Transmission Control Protocol on port number 25.

Email client

An email client, email reader or more formally mail user agent (MUA) is a computer program used to access and manage a user's email.

A mail exchanger record specifies the mail server responsible for accepting email messages on behalf of a domain name. It is a resource record in the Domain Name System (DNS). It is possible to configure several MX records, typically pointing to an array of mail servers for load balancing and redundancy.

Internet service provider Organisation that provides access to the Internet

An Internet service provider (ISP) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the Internet. Internet service providers can be organised in various forms, such as commercial, community-owned, non-profit, or otherwise privately owned.

An email address identifies an email box to which messages are delivered. While early messaging systems used a variety of formats for addressing, today, email addresses follow a set of specific rules originally standardized by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) in the 1980s, and updated by RFC 5322 and RFC 6854.

Email authentication, or validation, is a collection of techniques aimed at providing verifiable information about the origin of email messages by validating the domain ownership of any message transfer agents (MTA) who participated in transferring and possibly modifying a message.

Message submission agent

A message submission agent (MSA) or mail submission agent is a computer program or software agent that receives electronic mail messages from a mail user agent (MUA) and cooperates with a mail transfer agent (MTA) for delivery of the mail. It uses ESMTP, a variant of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), as specified in RFC 6409.

For a mail transfer agent (MTA), the Sender Rewriting Scheme (SRS) is a scheme for rewriting the envelope sender address of an email message, in view of remailing it. In this context, remailing is a kind of email forwarding. SRS was devised in order to forward email without breaking the Sender Policy Framework (SPF), in 2003.

Push email is an email system that provides an always-on capability, in which new email is actively transferred (pushed) as it arrives by the mail delivery agent (MDA) to the mail user agent (MUA), also called the email client. Email clients include smartphones and, less strictly, IMAP personal computer mail applications.

Email forwarding generically refers to the operation of re-sending an email message delivered to one email address to one or more different email addresses.

International email arises from the combined provision of internationalized domain names (IDN) and email address internationalization (EAI). The result is email that contains international characters, encoded as UTF-8, in the email header and in supporting mail transfer protocols. The most significant aspect of this is the allowance of email addresses in most of the world's writing systems, at both interface and transport levels.

A mailbox is the destination to which electronic mail messages are delivered. It is the equivalent of a letter box in the postal system.

A bounce address is an email address to which bounce messages are delivered. There are many variants of the name, none of them used universally, including return path, reverse path, envelope from, envelope sender, MAIL FROM, 5321-FROM, return address, From_, Errors-to, etc. It is not uncommon for a single document to use several of these names.

Feedback loop (email)

A feedback loop (FBL), sometimes called a complaint feedback loop, is an inter-organizational form of feedback by which a mailbox provider (MP) forwards the complaints originating from their users to the sender's organizations. MPs can receive users' complaints by placing report spam buttons on their webmail pages, or in their email client, or via help desks. The message sender's organization, often an email service provider, has to come to an agreement with each MP from which they want to collect users' complaints.

Spam reporting, more properly called abuse reporting, is the activity of pinning abusive messages and report them to some kind of authority so that they can be dealt with. Reported messages can be email messages, blog comments, or any kind of spam.

The JSON Meta Application Protocol (JMAP) is a set of related open Internet Standard protocols for handling email. JMAP is implemented using JSON APIs over HTTP and has been developed as an alternative to IMAP/SMTP and other proprietary email APIs such as Gmail and Outlook. Additional protocols and data models being built on top of the core of JMAP for handling contacts and calendar synchronization are meant to be potential replacements for CardDAV and CalDAV, and other support is currently in the works.

References

  1. "M³AAWG Anti-Abuse Best Common Practices for Hosting and Cloud Service Providers" (PDF). M³AAWG. March 17, 2015. Email Service Provider – A company that offers services to send email at volume.
  2. 1 2 Dave Crocker (July 2009). "Administrative Actors". Internet Mail Architecture. IETF. sec. 2.3. doi: 10.17487/RFC5598 . RFC 5598 . Retrieved 18 April 2013.
  3. Murray Kucherawy, ed. (June 2012). Creation and Use of Email Feedback Reports: An Applicability Statement for the Abuse Reporting Format (ARF). IETF. doi: 10.17487/RFC6650 . RFC 6650 . Retrieved 28 June 2012. "Mailbox Provider" refers to an organization that accepts, stores, and offers access to [RFC5322] messages ("email messages") for end users. Such an organization has typically implemented SMTP [RFC5321] and might provide access to messages through IMAP [RFC3501], the Post Office Protocol (POP) [RFC1939], a proprietary interface designed for HTTP [RFC2616], or a proprietary protocol.
  4. J.D. Falk, ed. (November 2011). Complaint Feedback Loop Operational Recommendations. IETF. doi: 10.17487/RFC6449 . RFC 6449 . Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  5. Jurij Leskovec (2008), Dynamics of Large Networks, ProQuest, ISBN   9780549957959
  6. John Klensin (October 2008). Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. IETF. doi: 10.17487/RFC5321 . RFC 5321 . Retrieved 14 April 2013.