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Posts tagged "rfc"

A recent twitter thread annoyed me about innovation in email :

That got me annoyed, because I always here we need to innovate with email and gmail is always taken as a reference in terms of email innovation.

But if you look at it gmail brought the following things to the world :

  1. unlimited “brokenish imap”
  2. Dkim/spf to fight spammers
  3. Good/very good spam filters (using the sender trust level)
  4. new nice UI to webmail

And that’s it. I’ve been involved with a MUA long enough now that I think email can’t be fixed by ‘just’ UI work or client work. Some things need to happen at the spec level and be implemented on both client and servers.

Unfortunately email has been around for 30ish years now and working for all that time - so fixing and simplifying can’t happen over night.

Let’s make a list of what needs to be fixed client side first :

  • The way headers are parsed and handled - way too complicated. Whilst this might have been a necessity 30 years ago I think , that with the email usage we have today it can be simplified. http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc5322 Needs to be simplified for headers.
  • The way mime is handled - the RFC is 18 years old and needs revisiting, we can probably simplify it too, I don’t believe we need so many ways to send attachments in an email. One should be enough.
  • Threading - discard reference-to headers if the subject doesn’t keep any words from the initial subject for instance.
  • Make it very easy to unsubscribe from a mailing list.

On the server side there are way more things that need to be fixed

  1. smtp needs to be replaced with something that would reduce spam and try to keep the identify of the sender (things done today with things like dkim/spf/openpgp).
  2. mailing list need to be rethought in the way you interact with them - eg digest mode / subscribe / unsubscribe / vacation / cross-posting
  3. Rich Format email

Of course the last thing to fix is users, why ho why on earth do I get a Microsoft word has an attachment - while I could have directly got the content in the email itself.

A very nice video explaining why email is hard to deal with when writing software. He only covers Headers, body and smtp. When writing and email client you need to add : storage, search, pop, imap.

Just by reading imap RFC I’m pretty sure we could do  video with the same length as this one.