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Network Working Group A. Bhushan Request for Comments: 475 MIT-DMCG NIC: 14919 March 6, 1973

                    FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM
 This paper describes my understanding of the results of the Network
 Mail System meeting SRI-ARC on February 23, 1973, and the
 implications for FTP (File Transfer Protocol).  There was general
 agreement at the meeting that network mail function should be within
 FTP currently provides two commands for handling mail.  The MAIL
 command allows a user to send mail via the TELNET connection (the
 server collects the mail and determines its end by searching for the
 character sequence "CRLF.CRLF").  The MLFL (mail file) command allows
 a user to send mail via the data connection (requires a user-FTP to
 handle the command but transfer is more efficient as server need not
 search for a special character sequence).  These commands are being
 used to provide network mailing facilities.  Local mail and SNDMSG
 programs have been modified at many sites to include network mailing
 (e.g., USER@HOST at BBN_TENEX and MAIL host user at MIT-DMCG).
 The network mail system should provide a facility whereby users can
 conveniently send messages to other network users who have
 "mailboxes" at one or more hosts.  It is not required that the
 messages or mail be delivered in real-time.  The network mail system
 is not an interactive inter-console communication facility, but it
 may be possible for some sites to deliver "urgent" mail to users in
 real-time (e.g., print mail at user console if user is currently
 logged-in).  The mail system also does not provide a general inter-
 process communication facility, though it may be possible to deliver
 messages to programs which have mailbox addresses.  Inter-process and
 inter-entity communication facilities are very desirable but are
 beyond the scope of the network mail system.
 The concepts of "mailbox" and "mailbox addresses" are central to this
 discussion of network mail system.  A mailbox is a place where the
 mail is stored before a user picks it up.  It may be a file in the
 user's directory or it may be a bin for hard-copy.  The mailbox
 address is the address required by the sender in order to send the
 mail to its destination mailbox.  For users who have an "on-line"
 network mailbox, the mailbox address contains the Host address and
 the user's mailbox identification at that Host.  The mailbox
 identification is that which is required by an FTP-server in order
 that it may put the mail in the desired mailbox.  The terms mailbox
 address will be used to refer to the on-line network mailbox address.

Bhushan [Page 1] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 The network mail system should provide the following six functions:
 1. CREATING: This refers to the manner in which the user creates or
    composes his message.  The FTP servers do not explicitly provide
    any message editing capability (server's editing conventions may
    be applicable in the case of MAIL command).  Editing conventions
    such as those for character delete and line cancel vary widely
    over the network.  The user is most familiar with his local Host
    conventions and these should be used for network mail editing.
    The user also has access to local editing systems which can be
    used for composing message files.  The message file may then be
    transmitted via the MAIL or MLFL commands (MLFL being preferable).
    The present FTP approach of assuming the creation of messages to
    be sender's responsibility seems adequate.  TIP users if they
    desire editing facilities should use intermediate Hosts for
    creating and sending messages.
 2. LOCATING: How sender determines receivers address.  FTP assumes
    that the sender knows the receivers correct address.  There is no
    published or "on-line" list of mailbox addresses.  There is,
    however, a list of network participants maintained (on-line) and
    published by the Network Information Center (NIC) at SRI-ARC.  The
    network users have been assigned a unique "NIC Ident" and Host
    site by the NIC.  It was therefore specified in FTP that FTP-
    servers maintain a table that maps NIC Idents to mail-box
    identifications.  The NIC will maintain on-line and publish the
    local mailbox address information for network participants.  It
    would be possible for users to look up a published list, or querry
    the NIC on-line to locate destination addresses.  The NIC will
    also provide an on-line facility (similar to FTP) that can be used
    by programs for retrieving the address information.  This latter
    approach of the NIC's maintaining addresses has several
    advantages.  The user can obtain a number of addresses for a
    group, and use these to transmit mail.  The FTP servers need not
    maintain NIC Ident Tables, and the NIC can provide a good facility
    for locating addresses from last names, NIC Idents, or even
    sketchy information.  It may still be desirable that FTP servers
    accept NIC idents, last names, and other standard forms as mailbox
 3. SENDING: How message is sent to the destination mailbox.  The
    messages may be sent directly to the destination mailbox (via
    TELNET or Data connections) or via an intermediate Host such as
    the NIC.  FTP does not explicitly provide for mail forwarding by
    intermediate Hosts but FTP servers may be able to recognize
    addresses as not being local, and forward mail.  In the event mail

Bhushan [Page 2] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

    is to be forwarded, a desirable facility is to have the
    intermediate site return an acknowledgement (by request) upon
    delivery of mail or if delivery fails within a specified time.
    The current FTP specifications recommend that FTP-servers accept
    multiple addresses but do not require this.
 4. STORING: Where mail is stored before reading and if information is
    available for later reference or retrieval.  The FTP does not
    require that sender store mail or keep duplicate copies.  It is
    the receiver's responsibility to store the information for
    reading, reference, or retrieval.  The receiver need not store the
    mail as a data file but can directly print it out on a user
    console or line printer.  FTP does not specify the procedures for
    storage handling by intermediate sites.  If intermediate site is
    used for forwarding the mail until it is delivered to its final
    destination.  If the mail is undeliverable then the intermediate
    site should return the undelivered information to the sender.  A
    similar situation arises when sending of mail is deferred by the
    sending site (destination host may be down).  The sending site
    then acts as an intermediate forwarder insofar as the user is
 5. RECORDING: Should the mail be catalogued and recorded for later
    reference and retrieval.  FTP currently does not provide an
    explicit mechanism for the receiver to record mail.  If an
    intermediate site (the NIC) is used for mail distribution then a
    function of such a site could be to record mail, if so requested.
    NIC is ideal for recording mail, but other sites may also wish to
    record the mail.  If the mail is recorded, then it is not
    necessary to send the entire contents of the mail.  Instead only a
    citation for the document can be sent and the receiver can
    retrieve the mail only if he wants to.  This is particularly
    useful for large documents such as NWG/RFC which are distributed
    to a group.  The citation may contain author, title, retrieval
    pathname, and perhaps an abstract.
 6. READING: How the mail is finally presented to and read by the
    user.  FTP currently assumes that mail reading is entirely the
    receiving site's function.  However, there are ways in which the
    sender can aid the receiver in providing improved mail reading
    facilities.  For example, the receiving system, if it knows a
    message to be urgent can deliver it immediately at a user console.
    Long messages may be put in separate files with notification in
    user's regular mail.  Alternately, mail could be a citation that
    the reading program can retrieve upon user request.  Selective
    handling of different classes of mail is important for an improved
    network mail system.

Bhushan [Page 3] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 The user of a mail system can use intermediate site for locating
 addresses, recording and/or distributing mail, and for creating and
 reading mail.  We therefore have the following models for mail system
 1. The user connects directly to the destination FTP server and sends
    mail using the MAIL command.  Local editing functions are limited
    to character delete and line cancel (assuming user is in line-at-
    a-time mode) and server conventions may also apply.  The user only
    needs a user-TELNET program at his site but needs to know the
    destination address.  This model is specially applicable to TIP
    and other mini-Host users who do not have a user-FTP or user-Mail
 2. The user composes the mail using a local editor (or mail system)
    and then requests his user-FTP or mail program to send the mail
    directly to the destination via the FTP MAIL or MLFL commands.
    The user needs to know the destination address.  The mail can be
    deferred by the sending program if the destination Host is down.
    TIP users can use this model by using the facilities of a "home-
    base" Host.
 3. The user uses an intermediate site such as NIC (other sites may
    provide forwarding services too) for mail distribution.  The user
    need not know the destination addresses but can use NIC idents for
    individuals and groups of individuals.  The mail can be recorded
    on request and its sending can be deferred (the destination Host
    may be down, or it may be more economical to defer mail).  The
    message to be mailed may be created at the local site using local
    editing facilities, or it may be created directly at the
    intermediate site.
 4. The user may send a citation of the mail instead of the complete
    mail item.  The citation refers to an existing document which can
    be retrieved on-line (such as the NIC number of a NIC journal
 The TIP does not currently provide an FTP server or mailbox
 facilities.  While it is possible to send mail to TIP terminals (such
 as line printers) it seems undesirable to do so because of the
 possibility of losing mail, the lack of privacy, and the fact that
 user may be several (or several hundred) miles away from the location
 of the TIP.  The TIP users normally have a "home-base" computer where
 they do their computing work most of the time.  The TIP user problem

Bhushan [Page 4] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 is best solved by requiring that TIP users rent mailboxes at their
 "home-base" Host.  Such a Host can provide good mail reading and
 querry facilities.  A TIP user can request his "home" Host to send
 him notification of mail on a TIP terminal.  If RDML command (NWG/RFC
 458) is accepted in FTP, TIP users could use such a command.  More
 important, if the user has a number of mailboxes on different Hosts,
 the RDML (or RDMF) command can be used to read his mail at all the
 sites where he has mailboxes.
 It has been suggested that FTP specification should require that mail
 function (for receiving mail) should be "free", i.e., FTP servers
 should not require the user to "login" (send the USER, PASS, and ACCT
 commands).  In the absence of the access control commands the FTP
 server should charge the cost of receiving mail to an overhead or
 browsing account.  It should be noted that this "free" mail function
 using default "USER" account may not allow non mail-related commands
 without reinitializing.  This requirement will improve communication
 among the network users.
 Some systems, such as Multics, have mechanisms for access control in
 the receipt of mail.  That is a user can specify who is eligible to
 send him mail (normally users give then access ".*.*.*.", i.e., any
 one can send mail).  The access control commands would be required to
 gain privileged access.  The USER command does not seem the best way
 to identify the sender of mail.  Consider users logged in as GUEST,
 ICCC, NETWORK, MIT-DMCG, and NETWORK-USER.  A separate FROM command
 seems desirable.  Such a command can be used to identify the sender
 as well as to send acknowledgments and replies.  The receiving site
 can tag the mail as: FROM AKB at MIT-DMCG, logged in as GUEST.  The
 receiver can then send reply to the mailbox address AKB at Host 70
 The NIC is a very special facility for handling mail.  It provides
 facilities for recording and distributing mail to individuals and
 groups of individuals, and for locating users' addresses.  The NIC
 will also undertake to provide distribution of unrecorded mail.
 Currently the NIC requires that users log into the NIC and use NLS to
 create and distribute mail.  Using NLS for creating mail has been a
 frustrating experience for many who are used to different editing
 systems.  Recently there has been a problem that NIC is overloaded at
 most times of the day and even if one can get a "network terminal"
 and log in, the interaction is quite slow.  As NIC (or NLS) is
 designed for character-at-a-time interaction with remote echo, the

Bhushan [Page 5] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 use is inefficient.  Using NIC is particularly unbearable when the
 user falls behind in his echo by as much as an entire line.
 An alternative to direct use of NIC is to use the NIC via FTP and
 programs at the user's site.  The user can create journal documents
 using his own local editing system and then transfer it to NIC via
 FTP.  The user may have to specify such information as author, title,
 where the acknowledgment should be sent, and journal number if the
 item is to be recorded.  It should also be possible for users to send
 sequential files to NIC and have them restructuredinto NLS form
 without having to do an "input sequential" (a suggestion is to "NLS"
 the file if its name is suffixed with a .NLS).  Alternately it should
 be possible for user's to retrieve journal documents and other
 sequential files without having to do a previous "output sequential".
 The NIC currently delivers mail via hardcopy and/or on-line.  On-line
 currently means that user must log into NIC to see if he has a
 message and read it by "print branch".  The messages are not seen by
 the destination users for several days and many users get their hard
 copy before they have had a chance to examine their on-line NIC mail.
 If the NIC were to deliver mail via FTP to network users, then the
 mail turn-around time will be greatly speeded and the users will not
 have to log into the NIC.  Large documents need not be mailed to the
 user in their entirety but only a citation need be sent.  The NIC
 willhave to collect the information on the mailbox addresses of
 Network participants for delivering mail, especially since it appears
 that many FTP servers are not "respecting" NIC idents.  It is
 recognized that a user may have only one (the most used) of these
 The NIC identification subsystem (currently accessible via NLS only)
 contains information on users (such as affiliation, US Mail address,
 telephone numbers, etc.) and groups (members, etc.).  The on-line
 mailbox address information can be added here.  The NIC will
 undertake to provide a facility whereby the identification subsystem
 can be querried by programs, allowing mailing programs to retrieve
 the addresses automatically.  This facility will be separate from
 The FTP currently does not provide explicit facilities for recording
 mail, communicating sender's address, sending program readable
 citations, specifying author and title for documents, requesting
 acknowledgments, and indicating message type (urgent, ordinary, and
 long).  To overcome these deficiencies, we can take any of the
 following approaches:

Bhushan [Page 6] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 1. Kludge the desired features in the pathname syntax of the MAIL and
    MLFL commands, justifying the kludge on the grounds that most of
    the functions are to be used only by the NIC.
 2. Add new commands for the desired functions and alter the MAIL and
    MLFL commands somewhat to recognize the existence of the new
 3. Define a new mail command which incorporates the missing functions
    (in the process defining new commands for the desired functions).
    The MAIL and MLFL commands can be used in their present form but
    may be gradually phased out.
 The first approach seems undesirable to me as many of the missing
 functions can be used by other sites as well.  In addition it will be
 easier to write programs to deal with commands rather than a complex
 syntax.  The second and the third approaches are not very different
 from each other.  The third approach seems preferable as it will
 allow existing mail programs to function in their present form.
 Using the third approach consider the following new FTP commands:
 1. MLTO (mail to): The argument is one or more mailbox identifiers
    separated by "," (commas).  It is suggested that if there is no
    argument, the mail should be sent to some responsible user or
    printed on a printer.  This command starts the sequence of
    optional FTP mail related commands described below.  The sequence
    ends with the TEXT, FILE, or CITA (citation) commands.
 2. FROM: The argument is the address of the sender or senders.  It is
    in a standard form that can be interpreted by programs as well as
    human users.  The information is to be used for identifying the
    sender(s), for sending replies, and for sending acknowledgments if
    the receiver is an intermediate forwarding site.
 3. MTYP (mail type): This identifies the type of mail as U (urgent),
    O (ordinary), and L (long).  The receiving system can take the
    appropriate actions from this knowledge.  The default assumption
    is ordinary mail.
 4. RECO (record the mail): The argument if present is the identifying
    information for recording (such as NIC Journal number).  If no
    argument is present the server will assign the recording
    information and send an appropriate reply (real-time or deferred).
 5. AUTH (author): Identifies the author of the document in a form
    acceptable to the server (NIC ident may be required by NIC).

Bhushan [Page 7] RFC 475 FTP AND NETWORK MAIL SYSTEM March 1973

 6. TITL (title): Identifies the title of the document.  The argument
    is an ASCII string ending with the sequence "CRLF.CRLF".
 7. ACKN (acknowledge): Relevant for intermediate forwarding sites.
    Asks the server to send acknowledgment on delivery or if delivery
    fails within a specified time.
 8. TEXT: No arguments.  Starts the transfer of mail over TELNET
    connection in an identical manner as MAIL.
 9. FILE: No arguments.  Starts transfer of mail over the data
    connection in an identical manner as MLFL.
 10. CITA (citation): Argument is the pathname of retrievable file.
 We also need to define new reply codes for handling mail.  Some sites
 have expressed the need for replies such as "send only X bytes of
 mail".  Other replies could specifically request additional commands
 such as USER/PASS/ACCT for privileged mailing, FROM/ACKN for mail
 forwarding, and AUTH/TITL for recorded mail.  Another suggestion that
 may be given consideration is allowing TYPE/BYTE other than A/8 for
 FILE command.  Mailing large files between like machines such as
 PDP-10s is more efficient in I/36.  The RDML and RDMF commands
 proposed by Bressler and Thomas (NWG/RFC 458) also merit
 consideration as they would aid the handling of mail for users who
 have mailboxes at different Hosts.
      [This RFC was put into machine readable form for entry]
   [into the online RFC archives by Kelly Tardif, Viagenie 10/99]

Bhushan [Page 8]

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