Re: 8-bit MIME (was: Documenting in Tamil Computing)

From: Stephane Bortzmeyer (
Date: Tue Dec 17 2002 - 07:53:42 EST

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    On Tue, Dec 17, 2002 at 01:28:00PM +0100,
     Otto Stolz <> wrote
     a message of 65 lines which said:

    > As of November 2002, RFC 2821 is still a Proposed Standard, and RFC 821
    > is the Standard Protocol (cf. <>).

    For those on the mailing list not versed in IETF language, let us add
    that most Internet protocols are just Proposed Standard: it takes a
    lot of time to move to an upper level. (The RFC 2821 is more than 18
    months old.) Anyway, 8bits MIME was already possible with RFC 821, the
    difference was just editorial (RFC 2821 is easier to read since you do
    not need to patch it with many following RFCs.)

    > "SHOULD" does definitely not mean the same thing as "MUST".
    > An SMTP server does not have to support 8-bit MIME mail.

    You're playing with words. In real life, all SMTP servers support
    8-bits mail because all SMTP servers authors are aware of the issue
    (true, it was long and difficult to convince them all but it
    worked). Any counter-example?
    > I have seen many messages, originally in ISO-8859-1-encoded French,
    > that got the high-bit of every accented character chopped off, thus
    > replacing "" with "i", "" with "n", and so forth.

    Last time I saw such problems was something like ten years ago. It was
    almost never the fault of the SMTP server, but of some programs on the
    destination machine (or sometimes the faults of funny gateways like
    X400 servers, something you cannot blame on the Internet).

    > Of course, more and more SMTP servers support 8-bit MIME,

    All implementations already supports 8-bits MIME. Some servers have
    not been upgraded yet but it is uncommon. (Remember we are talking
    about a move which occurred many years ago: even if many system
    administrators do not upgrade their software, in the long term,
    machines are replaced and new software catches on.)

    > take the pains to transform 8-bit MIME to some transfer-encoding
    > supported by the receiving server.

    Very bad idea, BTW, since it mangles the mail, which can be a problem
    with applications like cryptographic signatures. I always turn it off
    and it was never a problem. In practice (do note I refer to the real
    world), all SMTP servers accept 8-bits EVEN IF THEY DO NOT ADVERTISE
    IT PROPERLY with the 8BITMIME option.

    Back to Unicode: why does nobody use UTF-7? Precisely because it is no
    longer necessary.

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