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Postmaster Convention for X.400 Operations
RFC 1648

Document Type RFC - Historic (July 1994)
Author Allan Cargille
Last updated 2013-03-02
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
IESG Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
RFC 1648
Network Working Group                                        A. Cargille
Request for Comments: 1648                       University of Wisconsin
Category: Standards Track                                      July 1994

               Postmaster Convention for X.400 Operations

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   Both STD 11, RFC 822 [1] and STD 3, RFC 1123 [2] (Host Requirements)
   require that the email address "postmaster" be supported at all
   hosts.  This paper extends this concept to X.400 mail domains which
   have registered RFC 1327 mapping rules, and which therefore appear to
   have normal RFC822-style addresses.

1.  Postmaster Convention in RFC822

   Operating a reliable, large-scale electronic mail (email) network
   requires cooperation between many mail managers and system
   administrators.  As noted in RFC 822 [1], often mail or system
   managers need to be able to contact a responsible person at a remote
   host without knowing any specific user name or address at that host.
   For that reason, both RFC 822 and the Internet Host Requirements [2]
   require that the address "postmaster" be supported at every Internet

2.  Postmaster Convention and X.400

   However, RFC 822 is not the only email protocol being used in the
   Internet.  Some Internet sites are also running the X.400 (1984) [3]
   and X.400 (1988) [4] email protocols.  RFC 1327 specifies how to map
   between X.400 and RFC 822 addresses [5].  When mapping rules are
   used, addresses map cleanly between X.400 and RFC 822.  In fact, it
   is impossible to determine by inspecting the address whether the
   recipient is an RFC 822 mail user or an X.400 mail user.

   A paper by Rob Hagens and Alf Hansen describes an X.400 community
   known as the "Global Open MHS Community" (GO-MHS) [6].  Many mail
   domains in the GO-MHS Community have registered RFC 1327 mapping
   rules.  Therefore, users in those domains have RFC 822-style email

Cargille                                                        [Page 1]
RFC 1648              X.400 Postmaster Convention              July 1994

   addresses, and these email domains are a logical extension of the RFC
   822 Internet.  It is impossible to tell by inspecting a user's
   address whether the user receives RFC 822 mail or X.400 mail.

   Since these addresses appear to be standard RFC 822 addresses, mail
   managers, mailing list managers, host administrators, and users
   expect to be able to simply send mail to "postmaster@domain" and
   having the message be delivered to a responsible party.  When an RFC
   1327 mapping rule exists, the X.400 address element corresponding to
   the left-hand-side "postmaster" is "Surname=Postmaster" (both 1984
   and 1988).  However, neither the X.400 protocols, North America X.400
   Implementor's Agreements [7], nor the other regional X.400
   implementor's agreements require that "Surname=Postmaster" and
   "CommonName=Postmaster" be supported.  (Supporting these addresses is
   recommended in X.400 (1988)).

   For mapped X.400 domains which do not support the postmaster
   address(es), this means that an address such as ""
   might be valid, yet mail to the corresponding address
   "" fails.  This is frustrating for remote
   administrators and users, and can prevent operational problems from
   being communicated and resolved.  In this case, the desired seamless
   integration of the Internet RFC 822 mail world and the mapped X.400
   domain has not been achieved.

   The X.400 mail managers participating in the Cosine MHS Project
   discussed this problem in a meeting in June 1992 [8].  The discussion
   recognized the need for supporting the postmaster address at any
   level of the address hierarchy where these are user addresses.
   However, the group only required supporting the postmaster address
   down to certain levels of the O/R Address tree.  This approach solved
   part of the problem, but not all of it.  A more complete solution is

3.  Proposed Solution

   To fully achieve the desired seamless integration of email domains
   for which RFC 1327 mapping rules have been defined, the following
   convention must be followed,

      If there are any valid addresses of the form "user@domain", then
      the address "postmaster@domain" must also be valid.

   To express this in terms of X.400:  For every X.400 domain for which
   an RFC 1327 mapping rule exists, if any address of the form

      Surname=User; <Other X.400 Address Elements>

Cargille                                                        [Page 2]
RFC 1648              X.400 Postmaster Convention              July 1994

   is a valid address, then the address

      Surname=Postmaster; <Same X.400 Address Elements>

   must also be a valid address.  If the X.400 system is running
   X.400(1988), then the address

      CommonName=Postmaster; <Same X.400 Address Elements>

   must also be supported.  (Note that CommonName=Postmaster will not be
   generated by RFC 1327 mappings, but it is recommended in the 1988
   X.400 standard).

   To remain consistent with RFC 822, "Mail sent to that address is to
   be routed to a person responsible for the site's mail system or to a
   person with responsibility for general site operation." [9].

3.1.  Software Limitations

   If software is unable to support this requirement, it should be
   upgraded.  X.400 software developers are strongly encouraged and
   requested to support forwarding mail to a centralized postmaster
   mailbox in products.

   It may be possible to support forwarding postmaster mail to a central
   mailbox in software packages which do not explicitly support it by
   applying work-around solutions.  For example, some packages support
   creating a mailing list for "postmaster" which has one entry that
   points to the desired centralized postmaster mailbox.  Alternatively,
   it may be possible to support a postmaster address using the X.400
   Autoforwarding feature.  The software package may also support
   rewriting the address in some other way.

4.  Acknowledgements

   This document is a product of discussion and comments from the IETF
   OSI X.400 Operations Working Group.  Helpful input was also received
   from the European MHS Managers.  Special thanks to Marko Kaittola and
   Erik Lawaetz for good criticism and helpful discussion.

Security Considerations

   Security issues are not discussed in this memo.

Cargille                                                        [Page 3]
RFC 1648              X.400 Postmaster Convention              July 1994

5.  Author's Address

   Allan Cargille
   Associate Researcher
   Computer Sciences Department
   University of Wisconsin-Madison
   1210 West Dayton Street
   Madison, WI   53706   USA

   X.400: S=Cargille; O=UW-Madison; OU1=cs; PRMD=xnren; ADMD= ; C=us;

   Phone: +1 (608) 262-5084
   Fax:   +1 (608) 262-9777

6.  References

   [1] Crocker, D., "Standard of the Format of ARPA Internet Text
       Messages", STD 11, RFC 822, UDEL, August 1982.

   [2] Braden, R., "Requirements for Internet Hosts -- Application and
       Support", STD 3, RFC 1123, USC/Information Sciences Institute,
       October 1989.

   [3] CCITT, "CCITT Recommendations X.400", Message Handling Systems:
       System Model--Service Elements, 1984.

   [4] CCITT/ISO, "CCITT Recommendations X.400/ ISO IS 10021-1", Message
       Handling: System and Service Overview, December 1988.

   [5] Kille, S., "Mapping between X.400(1988) / ISO 10021 and RFC 822",
       RFC 1327, University College London, May 1992.

   [6] Hagens, R. and A. Hansen, "Operational Requirements for X.400
       Management Domains in the GO-MHS Community," ANS, UNINETT, RFC
       1649, July 1994.

   [7] U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and
       Technology, Stable Implementation Agreements for Open Systems
       Interconnection Protocols, Version 7, Edition 1, Special
       Publication 500-214, December 1993.

   [8] Minutes, Cosine MHS Managers Meeting, June 1992, (unpublished).

   [9] Crocker, D., "Standard of the Format of ARPA Internet Text
       Messages", STD 11, RFC 822, UDEL, Pg. 33, August 1982.

Cargille                                                        [Page 4]