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Structured Email

Document Type Approved BOF request
Title Structured Email
Last updated 2023-02-16
State Approved
Editors Conny Junghans , Hans-Jörg Happel
Responsible leadership Murray Kucherawy
Send notices to (None)

Name: Structured Email (SML)


Email remains one of the most widely used internet technologies, even in an era of increasing competition from other communication tools such as instant messaging. While many RFCs have updated and extended initial email specifications, the major inner workings of email remain widely unchanged since their inception. In particular, email is still mostly a text-based medium, which requires a lot of human attention, even though more and more so called "transactional" emails are authored in an automated fashion. Accordingly, the task of dealing with large amounts of email is still a major challenge for many users.

The goal of structured email is to replace or extend text-based email messages with message parts that describe content in a machine-readable way. The proposed approach aims to enable novel ways of how users and automated programs can interact via email while retaining downwards compatibility with existing email standards, e.g., by specifying certain header fields and MIME body parts based on the Internet Message Format [RFC5322]. An additional discovery mechanism would help senders to determine which types of structured email an intended recipient is willing to accept.

The purpose of this BoF is to provide a space to discuss requirements, existing solutions, and to identify areas for standardization.

Required Details

  • Status: not WG Forming
  • Responsible AD: Murray Kucherawy, Francesca Palombini
  • BOF proponents: Hans-Jörg Happel <>, Conny Junghans <>
  • BOF chairs: Barry Leiba, Alexey Melnikov
  • Number of people expected to attend: 100
  • Length of session (1 or 2 hours): 2 hours
  • Conflicts (whole Areas and/or WGs)
  • Chair Conflicts: TBD
  • Technology Overlap: all of ART; in particular JMAP, EXTRA, EMAILCORE, CALEXT
  • Key Participant Conflict: (same as technology overlap)

Information for IAB/IESG

Any protocols or practices that already exist in this space:

Which (if any) modifications to existing protocols or practices are required:

  • Small extensions of the Internet Message Format [RFC5322]

Which (if any) entirely new protocols or practices are required:

  • Specification for how to represent and process machine-readable versions of email content
  • Specification for the discovery of recipients' structured email support
  • Specification of how to establish trust for processing structured email

Open source projects (if any) implementing this work:

Possible relationships with related ongoing standards work:

  • JMAP standards


  • Agenda Bash / Administrativa (5 minutes)
  • Problem statement (15 minutes)
  • Clarifying questions and open discussion (30 minutes)
  • Next steps (10 minutes)