SMTP Service Extensions
RFC 1869

Document Type RFC - Internet Standard (November 1995; No errata)
Obsoleted by RFC 2821
Last updated 2013-03-02
Stream IETF
Formats plain text pdf html bibtex
Stream WG state (None)
Document shepherd No shepherd assigned
IESG IESG state RFC 1869 (Internet Standard)
Consensus Boilerplate Unknown
Telechat date
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group                               J. Klensin, WG Chair
Request For Comments: 1869                                           MCI
STD: 10                                                 N. Freed, Editor
Obsoletes: 1651                             Innosoft International, Inc.
Category: Standards Track                                        M. Rose
                                            Dover Beach Consulting, Inc.
                                                            E. Stefferud
                                     Network Management Associates, Inc.
                                                              D. Crocker
                                                  Brandenburg Consulting
                                                           November 1995

                        SMTP Service Extensions

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.

1.  Abstract

   This memo defines a framework for extending the SMTP service by
   defining a means whereby a server SMTP can inform a client SMTP as to
   the service extensions it supports.  Extensions to the SMTP service
   are registered with the IANA. This framework does not require
   modification of existing SMTP clients or servers unless the features
   of the service extensions are to be requested or provided.

2.  Introduction

   The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) [1] has provided a stable,
   effective basis for the relay function of message transfer agents.
   Although a decade old, SMTP has proven remarkably resilient.
   Nevertheless, the need for a number of protocol extensions has become
   evident. Rather than describing these extensions as separate and
   haphazard entities, this document enhances SMTP in a straightforward
   fashion that provides a framework in which all future extensions can
   be built in a single consistent way.

3.  Framework for SMTP Extensions

   For the purpose of service extensions to SMTP, SMTP relays a mail
   object containing an envelope and a content.

Klensin, et al              Standards Track                     [Page 1]
RFC 1869                SMTP Service Extensions            November 1995

 (1)   The SMTP envelope is straightforward, and is sent as a
       series of SMTP protocol units: it consists of an
       originator address (to which error reports should be
       directed); a delivery mode (e.g., deliver to recipient
       mailboxes); and, one or more recipient addresses.

 (2)   The SMTP content is sent in the SMTP DATA protocol unit
       and has two parts: the headers and the body. The
       headers form a collection of field/value pairs
       structured according to RFC 822 [2], whilst the body,
       if structured, is defined according to MIME [3]. The
       content is textual in nature, expressed using the US
       ASCII repertoire (ANSI X3.4-1986). Although extensions
       (such as MIME) may relax this restriction for the
       content body, the content headers are always encoded
       using the US ASCII repertoire. The algorithm defined in
       [4] is used to represent header values outside the US
       ASCII repertoire, whilst still encoding them using the
       US ASCII repertoire.

   Although SMTP is widely and robustly deployed, some parts of the
   Internet community might wish to extend the SMTP service.  This memo
   defines a means whereby both an extended SMTP client and server may
   recognize each other as such and the server can inform the client as
   to the service extensions that it supports.

   It must be emphasized that any extension to the SMTP service should
   not be considered lightly. SMTP's strength comes primarily from its
   simplicity.  Experience with many protocols has shown that:

     protocols with few options tend towards ubiquity, whilst
     protocols with many options tend towards obscurity.

   This means that each and every extension, regardless of its benefits,
   must be carefully scrutinized with respect to its implementation,
   deployment, and interoperability costs. In many cases, the cost of
   extending the SMTP service will likely outweigh the benefit.

   Given this environment, the framework for the extensions described in
   this memo consists of:

 (1)   a new SMTP command (section 4)

 (2)   a registry of SMTP service extensions (section 5)

 (3)   additional parameters to the SMTP MAIL FROM and RCPT TO
       commands (section 6).

Klensin, et al              Standards Track                     [Page 2]
Show full document text