Electronic mail, often abbreviated to e-mail, email, or originally eMail, is a
store-and-forwardmethod of writing, sending, receiving and saving messages over electronic communication systems. The term "e-mail" (as a noun or verb) applies to the Internete-mail system based on the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, to network systems based on other protocols and to various mainframe, minicomputer, or internetby a particular systems vendor, or on the same protocols used on public networks.
spellings "e-mail" and "email" are both common. Several prominent journalistic and technical style guides recommend "e-mail",  , and the New York Times reported in April 2008 that "E-MAIL has become the bane of some people’s professional lives" due to information overload, yet "none of [the current wave of high-profile Internet startups focused on email] really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies". [Cite web|url= http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/20/technology/20digi.html?_r=2&oref=slogin&oref=slogin|title= Struggling to Evade the E-Mail Tsunami| date= 2008-04-20| publisher= New York Times]
Technology investors reflect similar concerns. [Cite web|url= http://www.foundrygroup.com/blog/archives/2008/04/did-darwin-skip-over-email.php|title= Did Darwin Skip Over Email?| date=
2008-04-28| publisher= Foundry Group]
Spamming and computer viruses
The usefulness of e-mail is being threatened by four phenomena:
e-mail bombardment, spamming, phishing, and e-mail worms.
Spamming is unsolicited commercial e-mail. Because of the very low cost of sending e-mail, spammers can send hundreds of millions of e-mail messages each day over an inexpensive Internet connection. Hundreds of active spammers sending this volume of mail results in
information overloadfor many computer users who receive voluminous unsolicited email each day. Rich Kawanagh. The top ten email spam list of 2005.
ITVibe news, 2006, january 02, http://itvibe.com/news/3837/] [avalanche of Viagra ads and Rolex pitches http://dir.salon.com/story/tech/feature/2005/01/19/microsoft_spam/index.html]
E-mail worms use e-mail as a way of replicating themselves into vulnerable computers. Although the first e-mail worm affected
UNIXcomputers, the problem is most common today on the more popular Microsoft Windowsoperating system.
The combination of spam and worm programs results in users receiving a constant drizzle of junk e-mail, which reduces the usefulness of e-mail as a practical tool.
A number of anti-spam techniques mitigate the impact of spam. In the
United States, U.S. Congress has also passed a law, the Can Spam Act of 2003, attempting to regulate such e-mail. Australia also has very strict spam laws restricting the sending of spam from an Australian ISP, [citeweb|title=Spam Bill 2003|url=http://www.aph.gov.au/library/pubs/bd/2003-04/04bd045.pdf] but its impact has been minimal since most spam comes from regimes that seem reluctant to regulate the sending of spam.
E-mail privacy, without some security precautions, can be compromised because:
* e-mail messages are generally not encrypted;
* e-mail 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 your e-mail messages on their mail servers before they are delivered. The backups of these can remain up to several months on their server, even if you delete them in your mailbox;
* the Received: fields and other information in the e-mail can often identify the sender, preventing anonymous communication.
cryptographyapplications 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, or S/MIMEcan be used for end-to-endmessage encryption, and SMTP STARTTLS or SMTP 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.
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.
Tracking of sent mail
The original SMTP mail service provides limited mechanisms for tracking a sent 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 Disposition Notifications (return receipts); however, these are not universally deployed in production.
The US Government has been involved in e-mail in several different ways.
Starting in 1977, the
US Postal Service(USPS) recognized the electronic mail and electronic transactions posed a significant threat to First Class mail volumes and revenue. Therefore, the USPS initiated an experimental e-mail service known as E-COM. Electronic messages would be transmitted to a post office, printed out, and delivered in hard copy form. In order 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. The service was said to be subsidized and apparently USPS lost substantial money on the experiment. Both the US Postal Commissionand the Federal Communications Commissionopposed E-COM. The FCC concluded that E-COM constituted common carriage under its jurisdiction and the USPS would have to file a tariff. [In re Request for declaratory ruling and investigation by Graphnet Systems, Inc., concerning the proposed E-COM service, FCC Docket No. 79-6 (Sept 4, 1979)] Three years after initiating the service, USPS canceled E-COM and attempted to sell it off. [ [http://www.usps.com/history/history/his1.htm History of the United States Postal Service, USPS] ] [Hardy, Ian R; The Evolution of ARPANET Email; 1996-05-13; History Thesis; University of California at Berkeley] [James Bovard, The Law Dinosaur: The US Postal Service, CATO Policy Analysis (Feb. 1985) ] [ [http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~almeroth/classes/F04.176A/homework1_good_papers/jay-akkad.html Jay Akkad, The History of Email] ] [ [http://www.cybertelecom.org/notes/email.htm Cybertelecom : Email] ] [ [http://www.gao.gov/archive/2000/gg00188.pdf US Postal Service: Postal Activities and Laws Related to Electronic Commerce, GAO-00-188 ] ] [ [http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/ota/Ota_4/DATA/1982/8214.PDF Implications of Electronic Mail and Message Systems for the U.S. Postal Service , Office of Technology Assessment, Congress of the United States, August 1982] ]
Early on in the history of the
ARPANet, there were multiple e-mail clients which had various, and at times, incompatible formats. For example, in the system Multics, the "@" sign meant "kill line" and anything after the "@" sign would be ignored. [ [http://www.cs.ucsb.edu/~almeroth/classes/F04.176A/homework1_good_papers/jay-akkad.html Jay Akkad, The History of Email ] ] The Department of Defense DARPAdesired to have uniformity and interoperability for e-mail and therefore funded efforts to drive towards unified interoperable 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" (Nov. 21, 1977), which was apparently not effective. In 1979, a meeting was held at BBN to resolve incompatibility issues. Jon Postelrecounted 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 e-mail systems at the time. This, in turn, lead to the release of David Crocker's RFC 822, "Standard for the Format of ARPA Internet Text Messages" (Aug. 13, 1982). [ [http://www.livinginternet.com/e/ei.htm Email History, How Email was Invented , Living Internet] ]
National Science Foundationtook over operations of the ARPANet and Internet from the Department of Defense, and initiated NSFNet, a new backbonefor the network. A part of the NSFNet AUP was that no commercial traffic would be permitted. [ [http://www.cybertelecom.org/notes/internet_history80s.htm Cybertelecom : Internet History] ] In 1988, Vint Cerfarranged for an interconnection of MCI Mail with NSFNET on an experimental basis. The following year Compuserve e-mail interconnected with NSFNET. Within a few years the commercial traffic restriction was removed from NSFNETs AUP, and NSFNET was privatized.
In the late 1990s, the
Federal Trade Commissiongrew concerned with fraud transpiring in e-mail, and initiated a series of procedures on SPAM, fraud, and phishing. [ [http://www.cybertelecom.org/spam/Spamref.htm Cybertelecom : SPAM Reference] ] In 2004, FTC jurisdiction over SPAM was codified into law in the form of the CAN SPAM Act. [ [http://www.cybertelecom.org/spam/canspam.htm Cybertelecom : Can Spam Act] ] Several other US Federal Agencies have also exercised jurisdiction including the Department of Justice and the Secret Service.
E-mail social issues
Anti-spam techniques (e-mail)
* Reply All
Clients and servers
E-mail client, Comparison of e-mail clients
E-mail hosting service
Internet mail standards
Mail transfer agent
Mail user agent
Unicode and e-mail
Disposable e-mail address
Electronic mailing list
Mailing list archive
Free On-line Dictionary of Computing
* Microsoft Manual of Style for Technical Publications Version 3.0
* [http://www.iana.org/assignments/message-headers/perm-headers.html IANA's list of standard header fields]
* [http://www.multicians.org/thvv/mail-history.html The History of Electronic Mail] is a personal memoir by the implementer of
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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