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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the communications medium. For the former manufacturing conglomerate,
see Email Limited.
"Inbox" redirects here. For the Google product, see Inbox by Gmail.

This screenshot shows the "Inbox" page of an email system, where users can see new emails and take
actions, such as reading, deleting, saving, or responding to these messages

The at sign, a part of every SMTP email address[1]

Electronic mail, or email, is a method of exchanging digital messages between people using digital
devices such as computers, tablets and mobile phones. Email first entered substantial use in the
1960s and by the mid-1970s had taken the form now recognized as email. Email operates
across computer networks, which in the 2010s is primarily the Internet. Some early email systems
required the author and the recipient to both be online at the same time, in common with instant
messaging. Today's email systems are based on a store-and-forward model. Email servers accept,
forward, deliver, and store messages. Neither the users nor their computers are required to be
online simultaneously; they need to connect only briefly, typically to a mail server or
a webmail interface, for as long as it takes to send or receive messages.
Originally an ASCII text-only communications medium, Internet email was extended by Multipurpose
Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) to carry text in other character sets and multimedia content
attachments. International email, with internationalized email addresses using UTF-8, has been
standardized, but as of 2016 it has not been widely adopted. [citation needed]
The history of modern Internet email services reaches back to the early ARPANET, with standards
for encoding email messages published as early as 1973 (RFC 561). An email message sent in the
early 1970s looks very similar to a basic email sent today. Email played an important part in creating
the Internet,[2]and the conversion from ARPANET to the Internet in the early 1980s produced the
core of the current services.


o 2.1Host-based mail systems
o 2.2LAN email systems
o 2.3Email networks
o 2.4Email address internationalization
o 2.5Attempts at interoperability
o 2.6From SNDMSG to MSG
o 2.7ARPANET mail
4Message format
o 4.1Message header
4.1.1Header fields
o 4.2Message body
4.2.1Content encoding
4.2.2Plain text and HTML
5Servers and client applications
o 5.1Filename extensions
o 5.2URI scheme mailto
o 6.1Web-based email
o 6.2POP3 email services
o 6.3IMAP email servers
o 6.4MAPI email servers
o 7.1Business and organizational use
7.1.1Email marketing
o 7.2Personal use
o 8.1Attachment size limitation
o 8.2Information overload
o 8.3Spam
o 8.4Malware
o 8.5Email spoofing
o 8.6Email bombing
o 8.7Privacy concerns
o 8.8Flaming
o 8.9Email bankruptcy
o 8.10Tracking of sent mail
9U.S. government
10See also
12Further reading
13External links

Historically, the term electronic mail was used generically for any electronic document transmission.
For example, several writers in the early 1970s used the term to describe fax document
transmission.[3][4] As a result, it is difficult to find the first citation for the use of the term with the more
specific meaning it has today.
Electronic mail has been most commonly called email or e-mail since around 1993,[5] but variations
of the spelling have been used:

email is the most common form used online, and is required

by IETF Requests for Comments (RFC) and working groups[6] and
increasingly by style guides.[7][8] This spelling also appears in most
e-mail is the format that sometimes appears in edited, published
American English and British English writing as reflected in
the Corpus of Contemporary American English data,[16] but is falling
out of favor in style guides.[8][17]
mail was the form used in the original protocol standard, RFC
524.[18] The service is referred to as mail, and a single piece of
electronic mail is called a message.[19][20]
EMail is a traditional form that has been used in RFCs for the
"Author's Address"[19][20] and is expressly required "for historical
E-mail is sometimes used, capitalizing the initial E as in similar
abbreviations like E-piano, E-guitar, A-bomb, and H-bomb.[22]

The AUTODIN network, first operational in 1962, provided a message service between 1,350
terminals, handling 30 million messages per month, with an average message length of
approximately 3,000 characters. Autodin was supported by 18 large computerized switches, and
was connected to the United States General Services Administration Advanced Record System,
which provided similar services to roughly 2,500 terminals.[23] By 1968, AUTODIN linked more than
300 sites in several countries.
Host-based mail systems[edit]
With the introduction of MIT's Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS) in 1961,[24] multiple users
could log in to a central system[25] from remote dial-up terminals, and store and share files on the
central disk.[26] Informal methods of using this to pass messages were developed and expanded:

1965 MIT's CTSS MAIL.[27]

Developers of other early systems developed similar email applications:

1962 1440/1460 Administrative Terminal System[28]

1968 ATS/360[29][30]
1971 SNDMSG, a local inter-user mail program incorporating the
experimental file transfer program, CPYNET, allowed the
first networked electronic mail[31]
1972 Unix mail program[32][33]
1972 APL Mailbox by Larry Breed[34][35][36]
1974 The PLATO IV Notes on-line message board system was
generalized to offer 'personal notes' in August 1974.[23][37]
1978 Mail client written by Kurt Shoens for Unix and distributed
with the Second Berkeley Software Distribution included support for
aliases and distribution lists, forwarding, formatting messages, and
accessing different mailboxes.[38] It used the Unix mail client to send
messages between system users. The concept was extended to
communicate remotely over the Berkeley Network.[39]
1979 EMAIL, an application written by Shiva Ayyadurai, who
claims to have "invented" e-mail due to certain functionality in the
program. These claims have been disputed by various parties, and
have also been the subject of lawsuits against media
1979 MH Message Handling System developed at RAND
provided several tools for managing electronic mail on Unix.[45]
1981 PROFS by IBM[46][47]
1982 ALL-IN-1[48] by Digital Equipment Corporation
1982 HP Mail (later HP DeskManager) by Hewlett-Packard[49]
These original messaging systems had widely different features and ran on systems that were
incompatible with each other. Most of them only allowed communication between users logged into
the same host or "mainframe", although there might be hundreds or thousands of users within an
LAN email systems[edit]
In the early 1980s, networked personal computers on LANs became increasingly important. Server-
based systems similar to the earlier mainframe systems were developed. Again, these systems
initially allowed communication only between users logged into the same server infrastructure.
Examples include:

WordPerfect Office
Microsoft Mail
Banyan VINES
Lotus Notes
Eventually these systems too could link different organizations as long as they ran the same email
system and proprietary protocol.[50]
Email networks[edit]
To facilitate electronic mail exchange between remote sites and with other organizations,
telecommunication links, such as dialup modems or leased lines, provided means to transport email
globally, creating local and global networks. This was challenging for a number of reasons, including
the widely different email address formats in use.
In 1971 the first ARPANET email was sent,[51] and through RFC
561, RFC 680, RFC 724, and finally 1977's RFC 733, became a
standardized working system.
PLATO IV was networked to individual terminals over leased data
lines prior to the implementation of personal notes in 1974.[37]
Unix mail was networked by 1978's uucp,[52] which was also used
for USENET newsgroup postings, with similar headers.
BerkNet, the Berkeley Network, was written by Eric Schmidt in 1978
and included first in the Second Berkeley Software Distribution. It
provided support for sending and receiving messages over serial
communication links. The Unix mail tool was extended to send
messages using BerkNet.[39]
The delivermail tool, written by Eric Allman in 1979 and 1980 (and
shipped in 4BSD), provided support for routing mail over dissimilar
networks, including Arpanet, UUCP, and BerkNet. (It also provided
support for mail user aliases.)[53]
The mail client included in 4BSD (1980) was extended to provide
interoperability between a variety of mail systems.[54]
BITNET (1981) provided electronic mail services for educational
institutions. It was based on the IBM VNET email system.[55]
1983 MCI Mail Operated by MCI Communications Corporation.
This was the first commercial public email service to use the
internet. MCI Mail also allowed subscribers to send regular postal
mail (overnight) to non-subscribers.[56]
In 1984, IBM PCs running DOS could link with FidoNet for email
and shared bulletin board posting.
Email address internationalization[edit]
Globally countries started adopting IDN registrations for supporting country specific scripts (non-
English) for domain names. In 2010 Egypt, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, and the United
Arab Emirates started offering IDN registrations. The government of India also registered .bharat[57] in
8 languages/scripts in 2014. In 2016 Data Xgen Technologies was credited as World's first email
platform offering EAI in India and Russia.[58][59]
Attempts at interoperability[edit]
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Early interoperability among independent systems included:

ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet, defined protocols for

dissimilar computers to exchange email.
uucp implementations for Unix systems, and later for other
operating systems, that only had dial-up communications available.
CSNET, which initially used the UUCP protocols via dial-up to
provide networking and mail-relay services for non-ARPANET
Action Technologies developed the Message Handling
System (MHS) protocol (later bought by Novell,[60][61][62] which
abandoned it after purchasing the non-MHS WordPerfect Office
renamed Groupwise).
HP OpenMail was known for its ability to interconnect several other
APIs and protocols, including MAPI, cc:Mail, SMTP/MIME, and
Soft-Switch released its eponymous email gateway product in 1984,
acquired by Lotus Software ten years later.[63]
The Coloured Book protocols ran on UK academic networks until
X.400 in the 1980s and early 1990s was promoted by major
vendors, and mandated for government use under GOSIP, but
abandoned by all but a few in favor of InternetSMTP by the mid-
From SNDMSG to MSG[edit]
In the early 1970s, Ray Tomlinson updated an existing utility called SNDMSG so that it could copy
messages (as files) over the network. Lawrence Roberts, the project manager for the ARPANET
development, took the idea of READMAIL, which dumped all "recent" messages onto the user's
terminal, and wrote a programme for TENEX in TECO macros called RD, which permitted access to
individual messages.[64] Barry Wessler then updated RD and called it NRD.[65]
Marty Yonke rewrote NRD to include reading, access to SNDMSG for sending, and a help system,
and called the utility WRD, which was later known as BANANARD. John Vittal then updated this
version to include three important commands: Move (combined save/delete
command), Answer (determined to whom a reply should be sent) and Forward (sent an email to a
person who was not already a recipient). The system was called MSG. With inclusion of these
features, MSG is considered to be the first integrated modern email programme, from which many
other applications have descended.[64]
ARPANET mail[edit]
Experimental email transfers between separate computer systems began shortly after the creation of
the ARPANET in 1969.[27] Ray Tomlinson is generally credited as having sent the first email across a
network, initiating the use of the "@" sign to separate the names of the user and the user's machine
in 1971, when he sent a message from one Digital Equipment Corporation DEC-10 computer to
another DEC-10. The two machines were placed next to each other.[31][66] Tomlinson's work was
quickly adopted across the ARPANET, which significantly increased the popularity of email.
Tomlinson is internationally known as the inventor of modern email.[67]
Initially addresses were of the form, username@hostname[68] but were extended to
"username@host.domain" with the development of the Domain Name System (DNS).
As the influence of the ARPANET spread across academic communities, gateways were developed
to pass mail to and from other networks such as CSNET, JANET, BITNET, X.400, and FidoNet. This
often involved addresses such as:
which routes mail to a user with a "bang path" address at a UUCP

The diagram to the right shows a typical sequence of events [69] that
takes place when sender Alice transmits a message using a mail
user agent (MUA) addressed to the email address of the recipient.

1. The MUA formats the message in email format and uses

the submission protocol, a profile of the Simple Mail
Transfer Protocol (SMTP), to send the message to the
local mail submission agent (MSA), in this case
2. The MSA determines the destination address provided in
the SMTP protocol (not from the message header), in this
case The part before the @ sign is the local
part of the address, often the username of the recipient,
and the part after the @ sign is a domain name. The MSA
resolves a domain name to determine the fully qualified
domain name of the mail server in the Domain Name
System (DNS).
3. The DNS server for the domain ( responds
with any MX records listing the mail exchange servers for
that domain, in this case, a message transfer
agent (MTA) server run by the recipient's ISP.[70]
4. sends the message to using SMTP.
This server may need to forward the message to other
MTAs before the message reaches the final message
delivery agent (MDA).
5. The MDA delivers it to the mailbox of user bob.
6. Bob's MUA picks up the message using either the Post
Office Protocol (POP3) or the Internet Message Access
Protocol (IMAP).
In addition to this example, alternatives and complications exist in
the email system:

Alice or Bob may use a client connected to a corporate email

system, such as IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange.
These systems often have their own internal email format and
their clients typically communicate with the email server using a
vendor-specific, proprietary protocol. The server sends or
receives email via the Internet through the product's Internet
mail gateway which also does any necessary reformatting. If
Alice and Bob work for the same company, the entire
transaction may happen completely within a single corporate
email system.
Alice may not have a MUA on her computer but instead may
connect to a webmail service.
Alice's computer may run its own MTA, so avoiding the transfer
at step 1.
Bob may pick up his email in many ways, for example logging
into and reading it directly, or by using a webmail
Domains usually have several mail exchange servers so that
they can continue to accept mail even if the primary is not
Many MTAs used to accept messages for any recipient on the
Internet and do their best to deliver them. Such MTAs are
called open mail relays. This was very important in the early days of
the Internet when network connections were unreliable. [citation
However, this mechanism proved to be exploitable by
originators of unsolicited bulk email and as a consequence open
mail relays have become rare,[71] and many MTAs do not accept
messages from open mail relays.

Message format [edit]

The Internet email message format is now defined by RFC 5322,
with multimedia content attachments being defined in RFC
2045 through RFC 2049, collectively called Multipurpose Internet
Mail Extensions or MIME. RFC 5322 replaced the earlier RFC
2822 in 2008, and in turn RFC 2822 in 2001 replaced RFC 822
which had been the standard for Internet email for nearly 20 years.
Published in 1982, RFC 822 was based on the earlier RFC 733 for
the ARPANET.[72]
Internet email messages consist of two major sections, the
message header and the message body. The header is structured
into fields such as From, To, CC, Subject, Date, and other
information about the email. In the process of transporting email
messages between systems, SMTP communicates delivery
parameters and information using message header fields. The body
contains the message, as unstructured text, sometimes containing
a signature block at the end. The header is separated from the body
by a blank line.
Message header[edit]
Each message has exactly one header, which is structured
into fields. Each field has a name and a value. RFC 5322 specifies
the precise syntax.
Informally, each line of text in the header that begins with
a printable character begins a separate field. The field name starts
in the first character of the line and ends before the separator
character ":". The separator is then followed by the field value (the
"body" of the field). The value is continued onto subsequent lines if
those lines have a space or tab as their first character. Field names
and values are restricted to 7-bit ASCII characters. Non-ASCII
values may be represented using MIME encoded words.
Header fields[edit]
Email header fields can be multi-line, and each line should be at
most 78 characters long and in no event more than 998 characters
long.[73] Header fields defined by RFC 5322can only contain US-
ASCII characters; for encoding characters in other sets, a syntax
specified in RFC 2047 can be used.[74] Recently the IETF EAI
working group has defined some standards track
extensions,[75][76] replacing previous experimental extensions, to
allow UTF-8 encoded Unicode characters to be used within the
header. In particular, this allows email addresses to use non-ASCII
characters. Such addresses are supported by Google and Microsoft
products, and promoted by some governments.[77]
The message header must include at least the following fields:[78][79]

From: The email address, and optionally the name of the

author(s). In many email clients not changeable except through
changing account settings.
Date: The local time and date when the message was written.
Like the From: field, many email clients fill this in automatically
when sending. The recipient's client may then display the time
in the format and time zone local to him/her.
RFC 3864 describes registration procedures for message header
fields at the IANA; it provides for permanent and provisional field
names, including also fields defined for MIME, netnews, and HTTP,
and referencing relevant RFCs. Common header fields for email

To: The email address(es), and optionally name(s) of the

message's recipient(s). Indicates primary recipients (multiple
allowed), for secondary recipients see Cc: and Bcc: below.
Subject: A brief summary of the topic of the message. Certain
abbreviations are commonly used in the subject, including "RE:"
and "FW:".
Cc: Carbon copy; Many email clients will mark email in one's
inbox differently depending on whether they are in the To: or
Cc: list. (Bcc: Blind carbon copy; addresses are usually only
specified during SMTP delivery, and not usually listed in the
message header.)
Content-Type: Information about how the message is to be
displayed, usually a MIME type.
Precedence: commonly with values "bulk", "junk", or "list"; used
to indicate that automated "vacation" or "out of office"
responses should not be returned for this mail, e.g. to prevent
vacation notices from being sent to all other subscribers of a
mailing list. Sendmail uses this field to affect prioritization of
queued email, with "Precedence: special-delivery" messages
delivered sooner. With modern high-bandwidth networks,
delivery priority is less of an issue than it once was. Microsoft
Exchange respects a fine-grained automatic response
suppression mechanism, the X-Auto-Response-
Suppress field.[81]
Message-ID: Also an automatically generated field; used to
prevent multiple delivery and for reference in In-Reply-To: (see
In-Reply-To: Message-ID of the message that this is a reply to.
Used to link related messages together. This field only applies
for reply messages.
References: Message-ID of the message that this is a reply to,
and the message-id of the message the previous reply was a
reply to, etc.
Reply-To: Address that should be used to reply to the message.
Sender: Address of the actual sender acting on behalf of the
author listed in the From: field (secretary, list manager, etc.).
Archived-At: A direct link to the archived form of an individual
email message.
Note that the To: field is not necessarily related to the addresses to
which the message is delivered. The actual delivery list is supplied
separately to the transport protocol, SMTP, which may or may not
originally have been extracted from the header content. The "To:"
field is similar to the addressing at the top of a conventional letter
which is delivered according to the address on the outer envelope.
In the same way, the "From:" field does not have to be the real
sender of the email message. Some mail servers apply email
authentication systems to messages being relayed. Data pertaining
to server's activity is also part of the header, as defined below.
SMTP defines the trace information of a message, which is also
saved in the header using the following two fields:[82]

Received: when an SMTP server accepts a message it inserts

this trace record at the top of the header (last to first).
Return-Path: when the delivery SMTP server makes the final
delivery of a message, it inserts this field at the top of the
Other fields that are added on top of the header by the receiving
server may be called trace fields, in a broader sense.[83]

Authentication-Results: when a server carries out authentication

checks, it can save the results in this field for consumption by
downstream agents.[84]
Received-SPF: stores results of SPF checks in more detail than
Auto-Submitted: is used to mark automatically generated
VBR-Info: claims VBR whitelisting[87]
Message body[edit]
Content encoding[edit]
Email was originally designed for 7-bit ASCII.[88] Most email software
is 8-bit clean but must assume it will communicate with 7-bit servers
and mail readers. The MIME standard introduced character set
specifiers and two content transfer encodings to enable
transmission of non-ASCII data: quoted printable for mostly 7-bit
content with a few characters outside that range and base64 for
arbitrary binary data. The 8BITMIME and BINARY extensions were
introduced to allow transmission of mail without the need for these
encodings, but many mail transport agents still do not support them
fully. In some countries, several encoding schemes coexist; as the
result, by default, the message in a non-Latin alphabet language
appears in non-readable form (the only exception is coincidence,
when the sender and receiver use the same encoding scheme).
Therefore, for international character sets, Unicode is growing in
popularity.[citation needed]
Plain text and HTML[edit]
Most modern graphic email clients allow the use of either plain
text or HTML for the message body at the option of the user. HTML
email messages often include an automatically generated plain text
copy as well, for compatibility reasons. Advantages of HTML
include the ability to include in-line links and images, set apart
previous messages in block quotes, wrap naturally on any display,
use emphasis such as underlines and italics, and
change font styles. Disadvantages include the increased size of the
email, privacy concerns about web bugs, abuse of HTML email as a
vector for phishing attacks and the spread of malicious software.[89]
Some web-based mailing lists recommend that all posts be made in
plain-text, with 72 or 80 characters per line[90][91] for all the above
reasons, but also because they have a significant number of
readers using text-based email clients such as Mutt.
Some Microsoft email clients allow rich formatting using their
proprietary Rich Text Format (RTF), but this should be avoided
unless the recipient is guaranteed to have a compatible email

Servers and client applications[edit]

The interface of an email client, Thunderbird.

Messages are exchanged between hosts using the Simple Mail

Transfer Protocol with software programs called mail transfer
agents (MTAs); and delivered to a mail store by programs
called mail delivery agents (MDAs, also sometimes called local
delivery agents, LDAs). Accepting a message obliges an MTA to
deliver it,[93] and when a message cannot be delivered, that MTA
must send a bounce message back to the sender, indicating the
Users can retrieve their messages from servers using standard
protocols such as POP or IMAP, or, as is more likely in a
large corporate environment, with a proprietary protocol specific
to Novell Groupwise, Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange Servers.
Programs used by users for retrieving, reading, and managing email
are called mail user agents (MUAs).
Mail can be stored on the client, on the server side, or in both
places. Standard formats for mailboxes include Maildir and mbox.
Several prominent email clients use their own proprietary format
and require conversion software to transfer email between them.
Server-side storage is often in a proprietary format but since access
is through a standard protocol such as IMAP, moving email from
one server to another can be done with any MUA supporting the
Many current email users do not run MTA, MDA or MUA programs
themselves, but use a web-based email platform, such as Gmail,
Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail, that performs the same
tasks.[94] Such webmail interfaces allow users to access their mail
with any standard web browser, from any computer, rather than
relying on an email client.
Filename extensions[edit]
Upon reception of email messages, email client applications save
messages in operating system files in the file system. Some clients
save individual messages as separate files, while others use
various database formats, often proprietary, for collective storage. A
historical standard of storage is the mbox format. The specific
format used is often indicated by special filename extensions:
Used by many email clients including Novell
GroupWise, Microsoft Outlook Express, Lotus notes, Windows
Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Postbox. The files are plain
text in MIME format, containing the email header as well as the
message contents and attachments in one or more of several
Used by Apple Mail.
Used by Microsoft Office Outlook and OfficeLogic Groupware.
Used by Opera Mail, KMail, and Apple Mail based on
the mbox format.
Some applications (like Apple Mail) leave
attachments encoded in messages for searching
while also saving separate copies of the
attachments. Others separate attachments from
messages and save them in a specific directory.
URI scheme mailto[edit]
Main article: mailto
The URI scheme, as registered with the IANA,
defines the mailto: scheme for SMTP email
addresses. Though its use is not strictly defined,
URLs of this form are intended to be used to open
the new message window of the user's mail client
when the URL is activated, with the address as
defined by the URL in the To: field.[95]

Web-based email[edit]
Main article: Webmail
Many email providers have a web-based email
client (e.g. AOL
Mail, Gmail,, Hotmail and Yahoo!
Mail). This allows users to log in to the email
account by using any compatible web browser to
send and receive their email. Mail is typically not
downloaded to the client, so can't be read without a
current Internet connection.
POP3 email services[edit]
The Post Office Protocol 3 (POP3) is a mail access
protocol used by a client application to read
messages from the mail server. Received
messages are often deleted from the server. POP
supports simple download-and-delete requirements
for access to remote mailboxes (termed maildrop in
the POP RFC's).[96]
IMAP email servers[edit]
The Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP)
provides features to manage a mailbox from
multiple devices. Small portable devices
like smartphones are increasingly used to check
email while travelling, and to make brief replies,
larger devices with better keyboard access being
used to reply at greater length. IMAP shows the
headers of messages, the sender and the subject
and the device needs to request to download
specific messages. Usually mail is left in folders in
the mail server.
MAPI email servers[edit]
Messaging Application Programming
Interface (MAPI) is used by Microsoft Outlook to
communicate to Microsoft Exchange Server - and
to a range of other email server products such
as Axigen Mail Server, Kerio
Connect, Scalix, Zimbra, HP OpenMail, IBM Lotus
Notes, Zarafa, and Bynari where vendors have
added MAPI support to allow their products to be
accessed directly via Outlook.

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Business and organizational use[edit]

Email has been widely accepted by business,
governments and non-governmental organizations
in the developed world, and it is one of the key
parts of an 'e-revolution' in workplace
communication (with the other key plank being
widespread adoption of highspeed Internet). A
sponsored 2010 study on workplace
communication found 83% of U.S. knowledge
workers felt email was critical to their success and
productivity at work.[97]
It has some key benefits to business and other
organizations, including:
Facilitating logistics
Much of the business world relies on communications between
people who are not physically in the same building, area, or
even country; setting up and attending an in-person
meeting, telephone call, or conference call can be inconvenient,
time-consuming, and costly. Email provides a method of
exchanging information between two or more people with no
set-up costs and that is generally far less expensive than a
physical meeting or phone call.
Helping with synchronisation
With real time communication by meetings or phone calls,
participants must work on the same schedule, and each
participant must spend the same amount of time in the meeting
or call. Email allows asynchrony: each participant may control
their schedule independently.
Reducing cost
Sending an email is much less expensive than sending postal
mail, or long distance telephone calls, telex or telegrams.
Increasing speed
Much faster than most of the alternatives.
Creating a "written" record
Unlike a telephone or in-person conversation, email by its nature
creates a detailed written record of the communication, the
identity of the sender(s) and recipient(s) and the date and time
the message was sent. In the event of a contract or legal
dispute, saved emails can be used to prove that an individual
was advised of certain issues, as each email has the date and
time recorded on it.
Email marketing[edit]
Email marketing via "opt-in" is
often successfully used to
send special sales offerings
and new product
information.[98] Depending on
the recipient's culture,[99] email
sent without permissionsuch
as an "opt-in"is likely to be
viewed as unwelcome "email
Personal use[edit]
Many users access their
personal email from friends
and family members using
a desktop computer in their
house or apartment.
Email has become widely
used on smartphones and Wi-
Fi-enabled laptops and tablet
computers. Mobile "apps" for
email increase accessibility to
the medium for users who are
out of their home. While in the
earliest years of email, users
could only access email on
desktop computers, in the
2010s, it is possible for users
to check their email when they
are away from home, whether
they are across town or across
the world. Alerts can also be
sent to the smartphone or
other device to notify them
immediately of new messages.
This has given email the ability
to be used for more frequent
communication between users
and allowed them to check
their email and write
messages throughout the day.
Today, there are an estimated
1.4 billion email users
worldwide and 50 billion non-
spam emails that are sent
Individuals often check email
on smartphones for both
personal and work-related
messages. It was found that
US adults check their email
more than they browse the
web or check
their Facebook accounts,
making email the most popular
activity for users to do on their
smartphones. 78% of the
respondents in the study
revealed that they check their
email on their phone.[100] It was
also found that 30% of
consumers use only their
smartphone to check their
email, and 91% were likely to
check their email at least once
per day on their smartphone.
However, the percentage of
consumers using email on
smartphone ranges and differs
dramatically across different
countries. For example, in
comparison to 75% of those
consumers in the US who
used it, only 17% in India

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Attachment size
Main article: Email attachment
Email messages may have
one or more attachments,
which are additional files that
are appended to the email.
Typical attachments
include Microsoft
Word documents, pdf docume
nts and scanned images of
paper documents. In principle
there is no technical restriction
on the size or number of
attachments, but in practice
email clients, servers and
Internet service providers
implement various limitations
on the size of files, or
complete email - typically to
25MB or
less.[102][103][104] Furthermore, due
to technical reasons,
attachment sizes as seen by
these transport systems can
differ to what the user
sees,[105] which can be
confusing to senders when
trying to assess whether they
can safely send a file by email.
Where larger files need to be
shared, file hosting services of
various sorts are available;
and generally
suggested.[106][107] Some large
files, such as digital photos,
color presentations and video
or music files are too large for
some email systems.
The ubiquity of email for
knowledge workers and "white
collar" employees has led to
concerns that recipients face
an "information overload" in
dealing with increasing
volumes of email.[108][109] This
can lead to increased stress,
decreased satisfaction with
work, and some observers
even argue it could have a
significant negative economic
effect,[110] as efforts to read the
many emails could
reduce productivity.
Main article: Email spam
Email "spam" is the term used
to describe unsolicited bulk
email. The low cost of sending
such email meant that by 2003
up to 30% of total email traffic
was already
spam.[111][112][113] and was
threatening the usefulness of
email as a practical tool. The
2003 and similar laws
elsewhere[114] had some
impact, and a number of
effective anti-spam
techniques now largely
mitigate the impact of spam by
filtering or rejecting it for most
users,[115] but the volume sent
is still very highand
increasingly consists not of
advertisements for products,
but malicious content or
A range of malicious email
types exist. These range
from various types of email
scams, including "social
engineering" scams such
as advance-fee
scam "Nigerian letters",
to phishing, email
bombardment and email
Email spoofing[edit]
Main article: Email spoofing
Email spoofing occurs when
the email message header is
designed to make the
message appear to come from
a known or trusted
source. Email
spam and phishing methods
typically use spoofing to
mislead the recipient about the
true message origin. Email
spoofing may be done as a
prank, or as part of a criminal
effort to defraud an individual
or organization. An example of
a potentially fraudulent email
spoofing is if an individual
creates an email which
appears to be an invoice from
a major company, and then
sends it to one or more
recipients. In some cases,
these fraudulent emails
incorporate the logo of the
purported organization and
even the email address may
appear legitimate.
Email bombing[edit]
Main article: Email bomb
Email bombing is the
intentional sending of large
volumes of messages to a
target address. The
overloading of the target email
address can render it
unusable and can even cause
the mail server to crash.
Privacy concerns[edit]
Main article: Internet privacy
Today it can be important to
distinguish between Internet
and internal email systems.
Internet email may travel and
be stored on networks and
computers without the
sender's or the recipient's
control. During the transit time
it is possible that third parties
read or even modify the
content. Internal mail systems,
in which the information never
leaves the organizational
network, may be more secure,
although information
technology personnel and
others whose function may
involve monitoring or
managing may be accessing
the email of other employees.
Email privacy, without some
security precautions, can be
compromised because:

email messages are

generally not encrypted.
email messages have to
go through intermediate
computers before
reaching their destination,
meaning it is relatively
easy for others to intercept
and read messages.
many Internet Service
Providers (ISP) store
copies of email messages
on their mail servers
before they are delivered.
The backups of these can
remain for up to several
months on their server,
despite deletion from the
the "Received:"-fields and
other information in the
email can often identify
the sender, preventing
are cryptography applications
that can serve as a remedy to
one or more of the above. For
example, Virtual Private
Networks or the Tor anonymity
network can be used to
encrypt traffic from the user
machine to a safer network
while GPG, PGP,
SMEmail,[117] or S/MIME can
be used for end-to-
end message encryption, and
over Transport Layer
Security/Secure Sockets Layer
can be used to encrypt
communications for a single
mail hop between the SMTP
client and the SMTP server.
Additionally, many mail user
agents do not protect logins
and passwords, making them
easy to intercept by an
attacker. Encrypted
authentication schemes such
as SASL prevent this. Finally,
attached files share many of
the same hazards as those
found in peer-to-peer
filesharing. Attached files may
contain trojans or viruses.
Flaming occurs when a person
sends a message (or many
messages) with angry or
antagonistic content. The term
is derived from the use of the
word "incendiary" to describe
particularly heated email
discussions. The ease and
impersonality of email
communications mean that
the social norms that
encourage civility in person or
via telephone do not exist and
civility may be forgotten.[118]
Email bankruptcy[edit]
Main article: Email bankruptcy
Also known as "email fatigue",
email bankruptcy is when a
user ignores a large number of
email messages after falling
behind in reading and
answering them. The reason
for falling behind is often due
to information overload and a
general sense there is so
much information that it is not
possible to read it all. As a
solution, people occasionally
send a "boilerplate" message
explaining that their email
inbox is full, and that they are
in the process of clearing out
all the messages. Harvard
University law
professor Lawrence Lessig is
credited with coining this term,
but he may only have
popularized it.[119]
Tracking of sent
The original SMTP mail
service provides limited
mechanisms for tracking a
transmitted message, and
none for verifying that it has
been delivered or read. It
requires that each mail server
must either deliver it onward or
return a failure notice (bounce
message), but both software
bugs and system failures can
cause messages to be lost. To
remedy this,
the IETF introduced Delivery
Status Notifications (delivery
receipts) and Message
Notifications (return receipts);
however, these are not
universally deployed in
production. (A complete
Message Tracking mechanism
was also defined, but it never
gained traction; see RFCs
3885[120] through 3888.[121])
Many ISPs now deliberately
disable non-delivery reports
(NDRs) and delivery receipts
due to the activities of

Delivery Reports can be

used to verify whether an
address exists and if so,
this indicates to a
spammer that it is
available to be spammed.
If the spammer uses a
forged sender email
address (email spoofing),
then the innocent email
address that was used
can be flooded with NDRs
from the many invalid
email addresses the
spammer may have
attempted to mail. These
NDRs then constitute
spam from the ISP to the
innocent user.
In the absence of standard
methods, a range of system
based around the use of web
bugs have been developed.
However, these are often seen
as underhand or raising
privacy concerns,[122][123][124] and
only work with email clients
that support rendering of
HTML. Many mail clients now
default to not showing "web
content".[125] Webmail providers
can also disrupt web bugs by
pre-caching images.[126]

The U.S. state and federal
governments have been
involved in electronic
messaging and the
development of email in
several different ways. Starting
in 1977, the U.S. Postal
Service (USPS) recognized
that electronic messaging and
electronic transactions posed
a significant threat to First
Class mail volumes and
revenue. The USPS explored
an electronic messaging
initiative in 1977 and later
disbanded it. Twenty years
later, in 1997, when email
volume overtook postal mail
volume, the USPS was again
urged to embrace email, and
the USPS declined to provide
email as a
service.[127][128][129] The USPS
initiated an experimental email
service known as E-COM. E-
COM provided a method for
the simple exchange of text
messages. In 2011, shortly
after the USPS reported its
state of financial bankruptcy,
the USPS Office of Inspector
General (OIG) began
exploring the possibilities of
generating revenue through
servicing.[130][131][132] Electronic
messages were transmitted to
a post office, printed out, and
delivered as hard copy. To
take advantage of the service,
an individual had to transmit at
least 200 messages. The
delivery time of the messages
was the same as First Class
mail and cost 26 cents. Both
the Postal Regulatory
Commission and the Federal
Commission opposed E-COM.
The FCC concluded that E-
COM constituted common
carriage under its jurisdiction
and the USPS would have to
file a tariff.[133] Three years after
initiating the service, USPS
canceled E-COM and
attempted to sell it
The early ARPANET dealt with
multiple email clients that had
various, and at times
incompatible, formats. For
example, in the Multics, the
"@" sign meant "kill line" and
anything before the "@" sign
was ignored, so Multics users
had to use a command-line
option to specify the
system.[27] The Department of
Defense DARPA desired to
have uniformity and
interoperability for email and
therefore funded efforts to
drive towards unified inter-
operable standards. This led
to David Crocker, John Vittal,
Kenneth Pogran, and Austin
Henderson publishing RFC
733, "Standard for the Format
of ARPA Network Text
Message" (November 21,
1977), a subset of which
provided a stable base for
common use on the
ARPANET, but which was not
fully effective, and in 1979, a
meeting was held at BBN to
resolve incompatibility
issues. Jon Postel recounted
the meeting in RFC 808,
"Summary of Computer Mail
Services Meeting Held at BBN
on 10 January 1979" (March 1,
1982), which includes an
appendix listing the varying
email systems at the time.
This, in turn, led to the release
of David Crocker's RFC 822,
"Standard for the Format of
ARPA Internet Text
Messages" (August 13,
1982).[139] RFC 822 is a small
adaptation of RFC 733's
details, notably enhancing
the host portion, to
use Domain Names, that were
being developed at the same
The National Science
Foundation took over
operations of the ARPANET
and Internet from the
Department of Defense, and
initiated NSFNet, a
new backbone for the network.
A part of the NSFNet AUP
forbade commercial
traffic.[140] In 1988, Vint
Cerf arranged for an
interconnection of MCI
Mail with NSFNET on an
experimental basis. The
year Compuserve email
interconnected with NSFNET.
Within a few years the
commercial traffic restriction
was removed from NSFNETs
AUP, and NSFNET was
privatised. In the late 1990s,
the Federal Trade
Commission grew concerned
with fraud transpiring in email,
and initiated a series of
procedures on spam, fraud,
and phishing.[141] In 2004, FTC
jurisdiction over spam was
codified into law in the form of
Act.[142] Several other U.S.
federal agencies have also
exercised jurisdiction including
the Department of Justice and
the Secret Service. NASA has
provided email capabilities to
astronauts aboard the Space
Shuttle and International
Space Station since 1991
when a Macintosh
Portable was used
aboard Space
Shuttle mission STS-43 to
send the first email
via AppleLink.[143][144][145] Today
astronauts aboard the
International Space Station
have email capabilities via
the wireless
networking throughout the
station and are connected to
the ground at 10 Mbit/s Earth
to station and 3 Mbit/s station
to Earth, comparable to
home DSL connection

See also[edit]
Anonymous remailer
Anti-spam techniques
Bounce message
Comparison of email
Dark Mail Alliance
Disposable email address
Electronic mailing list
Email art
Email authentication
Email digest
Email encryption
Email hosting service
Email storm
Email tracking
HTML email
Information overload
Internet fax
Internet mail standards
List of email subject
MCI Mail
Posting style
Electronic Mail
Push email
Unicode and email
Usenet quoting
Webmail, Comparison of
webmail providers

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43. Jump up^ Stromberg,
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45. Jump up^ A Mail
Handling System, Bruce
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46. Jump up^ "...PROFS
changed the way
collaborated and
approached work when
it was introduced by
IBM's Data Processing
Division in 1981...",
47. Jump up^ "1982 The
National Security
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48. Jump up^ "Gordon
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49. Jump up^ "HP
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50. Jump up^ with various
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51. Jump up^ Ray
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52. Jump up^ "Version 7
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53. Jump up^ Setting up
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Keith Sklower, University
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54. Jump up^ Mail(1), UNIX
Programmer's Manual,
4BSD, University of
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55. Jump up^ "BITNET
56. Jump up^ "MCI Mail",
MCI Mail
57. Jump
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58. Jump
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59. Jump
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61. Jump up^ "...offers
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76. Jump up^ J. Yao, Ed.,
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Junk folder which,
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Further reading[edit]
Cemil Betanov, Introduction
to X.400, Artech
House, ISBN 0-89006-597-7.
Marsha Egan, "Inbox Detox
and The Habit of Email
Excellence", Acanthus
Publishing ISBN 978-0-
Lawrence Hughes, Internet
e-mail Protocols, Standards
and Implementation, Artech
House Publishers, ISBN 0-
Kevin Johnson, Internet
Email Protocols: A
Developer's Guide, Addison-
Wesley Professional, ISBN 0-
Pete Loshin, Essential Email
Standards: RFCs and
Protocols Made Practical,
John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 0-
Partridge, Craig (AprilJune
2008). "The Technical
Development of Internet
Email" (PDF). IEEE Annals of
the History of Computing.
Berlin: IEEE Computer
Society. 30 (2): 3
29. doi:10.1109/mahc.2008.3
2. ISSN 1934-1547
Sara Radicati, Electronic
Mail: An Introduction to the
X.400 Message Handling
Standards, Mcgraw-
Hill, ISBN 0-07-051104-7.
John Rhoton, Programmer's
Guide to Internet Mail:
LDAP, Elsevier, ISBN 1-
John Rhoton, X.400 and
SMTP: Battle of the E-mail
Protocols, Elsevier, ISBN 1-
David Wood, Programming
Internet Mail, O'Reilly, ISBN

External links[edit]
up email or outbox in
Wiktionary, the free

IANA's list of standard

header fields
The History of Email is
Dave Crocker's attempt at
capturing the sequence of
'significant' occurrences in
the evolution of email; a
collaborative effort that
also cites this page.
The History of Electronic
Mail is a personal memoir
by the implementer of an
early email system
A Look at the Origins of
Network Email is a short,
yet vivid recap of the key
historical facts
Business E-Mail
Compromise - An
Emerging Global
Threat, FBI

Computer-mediated communication


Email clients

D: 4191427-2

L: 00576450
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