Proposed official standard for the format of ARPA Network messages
RFC 724

Document Type RFC - Unknown (May 1977; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 733
Last updated 2013-03-02
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RFC #  724
     NIC #37435                                            12 May 1977

                    Proposed Official Standard for the
                      Format of ARPA Network Messages

                                    by

              Ken Pogran, MIT-LCS/CSR    (Pogran at MIT-Multics)
              John Vittal, BBN            (Vittal at BBN-TENEXA)
              Dave Crocker, RAND-ISD     (DCrocker at Rand-Unix)
              Austin Henderson, BBN    (Henderson at BBN-TENEXD)



     Proposed Standard for Message Format                         / ii

                                  PREFACE

          ARPA's  Committee  on  Computer-Aided  Human   Communication
     (CAHCOM) wishes to promulgate an official standard for the format
     of ARPA Network mail headers which will adequately meet the needs
     of  the  various message service subsystems on the Network today.
     The authors  of  this  RFC  constitute  the  CAHCOM  subcommittee
     charged  with  the  task  of  developing  this new standard; this
     document presents our  current  thoughts  on  the  matter  and  a
     specific proposal.

          This document is organized as follows: First, we  present  a
     history,  of the development of what has become known as the ARPA
     Network "mail" or "message" service, and the issues which we feel
     are  most  pressing  --  problems for which solutions are lacking
     today, inhibiting the further development of message  subsystems.
     We  then  present  the  specification  for  the  new ARPA Network
     Message Header  standard.   This  is  followed  by  a  References
     section.

          Essentially, we propose a revision to Request  for  Comments
     (RFC)  561,  "Standardizing  Network  Mail Headers", and RFC 680,
     "Message  Transmission  Protocol".   This  revision  removes  and
     compacts  portions  of  the  previous  syntax  and  adds  several
     features to network address  specification.   In  particular,  we
     focus  on  people  and  not  mailboxes  as  recipients  and allow
     reference to stored address lists.   We  expect  this  syntax  to
     provide  sufficient  capabilities  to  meet most users' immediate
     needs and, therefore, give developers enough  breathing  room  to
     produce  a new mail transmission protocol "properly".  We believe
     that there is enough of a consensus in the Network  community  in
     favor  of such a standard syntax to make possible its adoption at
     this time.

          We would like to make clear  the  status  of  this  proposed
     standard:  The CAHCOM Steering Committee has replaced the Message
     Service Committee as the ARPANET  standards-setting  organization
     in  the  area  of  message  services.   It  is  expected that the
     proposal of this CAHCOM subcommittee, when  in  its  final  form,
     will  be  adopted  as  an  ARPANET  standard  by  CAHCOM.  In the
     interests of making this standard the best possible one,  we  are
     distributing  this  proposal as an RFC.

          Please send any  comments  and  criticisms  to  any  of  the
     authors  of  this  RFC  by  15 June 1977.  It is planned that the
     standard will be officially adopted by  1  September  1977,  with
     hosts expected to accept its syntax by 1 January 1978.



     Proposed Standard for Message Format                        / iii

                             CONTENTS

                  I.  PROBLEMS WITH ARPANET
                      MESSAGE STANDARDS

                      A.  Background and History
                      B.  Issues and Conclusions
                      C.  Message Parts
                      D.  Adoption of the Standard

                 II.  STANDARD FOR THE FORMAT
                      OF ARPA NETWORK MESSAGES

                      A.  Framework
                      B.  Syntax
                      C.  Semantics
                      D.  Examples

                III.  REFERENCES

                              APPENDIX

                  A.  Alphabetical Listing of Syntax Rules



     I. Problems with ARPANET Message Standards                    / 1
     A. Background and History

              I.  PROBLEMS WITH ARPANET MESSAGE STANDARDS

     A.  BACKGROUND AND HISTORY

          Today's ARPA Network "mail" or "message" service  uses,  for
     its delivery mechanism, two special commands of the File Transfer
     Protocol.  Viewed from within the structure of  FTP,  the  entire
     message,  both header and text, is data for the FTP MAIL and MLFL
     commands.  This facility was added to the File Transfer  Protocol
     as  an  afterthought;  it was an interim solution to be used only
     until  a  separate  mail  transmission  protocol  was  specified.
     Several  versions of such a protocol have been proposed, but none
     has yet received general acceptance.   Meanwhile,  attempts  have
     been made to improve upon the original interim facility.
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