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Computer mail meeting notes :: RFC0805

Network Working Group                                          J. Postel
Request for Comments:  805                                           ISI
                                                         8 February 1982

                      Computer Mail Meeting Notes


   A meeting was held on the 11th of January 1982 at USC Information
   Sciences Institute to discuss addressing issues in computer mail.
   The attendees are listed at the end of this memo.  The major
   conclusion reached at the meeting is to extend the
   "username@hostname" mailbox format to "username@host.domain", where
   the domain itself can be further structured.


   The meeting opened with a brief discussion of the objectives of the
   meeting and a review of the agenda.

      The meeting was called to discuss a few specific issues in text
      mail systems for the ARPA Internet.  In particular, issues of
      addressing are of major concern as we develop an internet in which
      mail relaying is a common occurance.  We need to discuss
      alternatives in the design of the mail system to provide high
      utility at reasonable cost.  One scheme suggested is to create
      "mail domains" which are another level of addressing.  The ad hoc
      scheme of source routing, while effective for some cases, is seen
      to lead to some problems.  A key test of addressing schemes is the
      procedure for sending copies of a reply to a message to the people
      who received copies of the original message.  The key reference
      documents for the meeting were RFCs 788, 799, and 801.

   Jon Postel gave a brief review of the NCP-to-TCP transition plan (RFC
   801).  The emphasis was on mail, the internet host table, and the
   role of a Host Name Server.

   The major part of the meeting was devoted to a wide ranging
   discussion of the general mailbox identification problem.  In
   particular, the notion of a hierarchial structure of name domains was
   discussed, and the issues associated with name servers were discussed
   including the types of information name servers should provide.

Name Domains

   One of the interesting ideas that emerged from this discussion was
   that the "user@host" model of a mailbox identifier should, in

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Computer Mail Meeting Notes                              8 February 1982

   principle, be replaced by a "unique-id@location-id" model, where the
   unique-id would be a globally unique id for this mailbox (independent
   of location) and the location-id would be advice about where to find
   the mailbox.  However, it was recognized that the "user@host" model
   was well established and that so many different elaborations of the
   "user" field were already in use that there was no point in persuing
   this "unique-id" idea at this time.

   Several alternatives for the structuring and ordering of the
   extensions to the "host" field to make it into a general
   "location-id" were discussed.

      These basically involved adding more hierarchical name information
      either to the right or the left of the @, with the "higher order"
      portion rightmost or leftmost.  It was clear that the information
      content of all these syntactic alternatives was the same, so that
      the one causing least difficulty for existing systems should be
      chosen.  Hence it was decided to add all new information on the
      right of the @ sign, leaving the "user" field to the left
      completely to each system to determine (in particular to avoid the
      problem that some systems already use dot (.) internally as part
      of user names).

   The conclusion in this area was that the current "user@host" mailbox
   identifier should be extended to "user@host.domain" where "domain"
   could be a hierarchy of domains.

      In particular, the "host" field would become a "location" field
      and the structure would read (left to right) from the most
      specific to the most general.

         For example: "Postel@F.ISI.IN" might be the mailbox of Jon
         Postel on host F in the ISI complex of the Internet domain.

      Formally, in RFC733, the host-indicator definition rule would

         host indicator = ( "at" / "@" ) domains

         domains = node / node "." domains

            Note only one "at" or "@" is allowed, and that the domains
            form a hierarchy with the most general in scope last.

            And note that the choice of domain names must be
            administratively controlled and the highest level domain
            names must be globally unique.

Postel                                                          [Page 2]

Computer Mail Meeting Notes                              8 February 1982

      The hierarchial domain type naming differs from source routing in
      that the former gives absolute addressing while the latter gives
      relative adressing.

Name Servers

   The discussion of name servers identified three separate name server
   functions: "white pages", "unique-id to location-id", and
   "location-id to address".

      The "white pages" service is a way of looking up a user by name
      and other properties using pattern matching and may return several
      data base "hits".  Each hit must have an associated unique-id.

      The "unique-id to location-id" service returns the character
      string location-id where the unique-id is currently found.

      The "location-id to address" service returns a network address
      (numeric) corresponding to the location-id.

         If the location-id is the name of a host in the current domain
         it is clear that the address returned will be the address to
         send the mail to, but if the location-id is that of some other
         domain then the address returned may be either the address to
         send the mail to, or the address of a name server for that
         domain, and these two cases must be distinguished.

   The conclusion of this discussion was that a location-id to address
   name service must be defined soon.  The other types of name servers
   were not further discussed, and are not required in the

   Another aspect of the name server is returning additional information
   besides the address.  In particular, for mail it is important to know
   which mail procedures the destination implements (NCP/FTP, TCP/SMTP,
   etc.).  Two approaches were discussed: one is coding the information
   as service names (e.g., NCP/SMTP), and the other is by reference to
   protocol and port numbers (e.g., PROTOCOL=6, PORT=25).  Another
   suggestion was that the request ought to be "location-id,service"
   (e.g., "ISIF.IN,MAIL") and the response ought to be the location-id,
   address, protocol, and port.  A different way of getting this
   information was suggested that instead of (or in addition to) having
   this information in the name server, one should get this data from
   the host itself via some sort of query or "who are you" protocol.

   Also discussed was the initial  provision for name service.  It seems
   useful to start with a text file that can be accessed via FTP, and to
   have both "Telnet-Like" (i.e., based on TCP) and "Datagram" (i.e.,

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Computer Mail Meeting Notes                              8 February 1982

   based on UDP) access to a query server.  This might be possible as an
   extension of the IEN-116 name server.

   Another issue was the central vs. distributed implementation of the
   name look up service.  It is recognized that separate servers for
   each domain has administrative and maintenance advantages, but that a
   central server may be a useful first step.  It is also recognized
   that each distinct database should be replicated a few times and be
   avialiable from distinct servers for robust and reliable service.

   An Example:

      Suppose that the new mailbox specification is of the form

         e.g., Postel@F.ISI.IN

      A source host sending mail to this address first queries a name
      server for the domain IN (giving the whole location "F.ISI.IN").

      The result of the query is either (1) the final address of the
      destination host (F.ISI), or (2) the address of a name server for
      ISI, or (3) the address of a forwarder for ISI.  In cases 1 and 3,
      the source host sends the mail to the address returned.  In case
      2,  the source host queries the ISI name server and ... (recursive
      call to this paragraph).

Action Items:

   RFC 733 Revision

      To include the hierarchial host and domain naming procedure, and
      to delete the features decommitted at the Computer Mail meeting on

      By: Dave Crocker

      Due: 15-Feb-82

   Host Name Server Description

      To specify a way to get name to address conversions and to find
      out about services offered.  Also how to get info on domain names.

      By: Jon Postel

      Due: 15-Feb-82

Postel                                                          [Page 4]

Computer Mail Meeting Notes                              8 February 1982

   Transition Plan Revision

      To include new host and domain names.

      By: Jon Postel

      Due: 15-Feb-82

   SMTP Revision

      To include new host and domain names.

      By: Jon Postel

      Due: Unspecified

   Mail System Description Revision

      How to do mail systems, including use of SMTP and Host Name

      By: Jon Postel

      Due: Unspecified

   Conversion of User Programs and Mailer Programs.

      Programs have to handle dots in the "host" field.  Many programs
      on many hosts will have to be modified to a greater or lesser
      extent.  In many cases the modifications should be quite simple.

      By: A Cast of Thousands

      Due: Unspecified (See the Following Item)

   Set a date when it ok to send messages with dots in "host" field.

      The must be a date after which it is ok to send host fields with
      dots  throughout the ARPANET and Internet world without the
      recipients complaining.

      By: DARPA (Duane Adams)

      Due: 1-Mar-82

Postel                                                          [Page 5]

Computer Mail Meeting Notes                              8 February 1982


   Duane A. Adams    DARPA/IPTO    Adams@ISI           (202) 694-8096
   Vint Cerf         DARPA/IPTO    Cerf@ISI            (202) 694-3049
   Harry Forsdick    BBN           Forsdick@BBN        (617) 497-3638
   Eric Schienbrood  BBN           shienbrood@bbn-unix (617) 497-3756
   Bob Thomas        BBN           BThomas@BBND        (617) 497-3483
   Bob Fabry         Berkeley      Fabry@Berkeley      (415) 642-2714
   Bill Joy          Berkeley      unj@berkeley        (415) 642-7780
   Gene Ball         CMU           Ball@CMUA           (412) 578-2569
   Anil Agarwal      COMSAT        Agarwal@ISID        (301) 863-6103
   David L. Mills    COMSAT        Mills@ISID          (202) 863-6092
   Dave Crocker      Univ. Del     DCrocker@Udel       (302) 738-8913
   Ray McFarland     DoD           McFarland@ISIA      (301) 796-6290
   Dave Lebling      MIT           PDL@MIT-XX          (617) 253-1440
   Paul Mockapetris  ISI           Mockapetris@ISIF    (213) 822-1511
   Jon Postel        ISI           Postel@ISIF         (213) 822-1511
   Carl Sunshine     ISI           Sunshine@ISIF       (213) 822-1511
   Mark Crispin      Stanford U.   Admin.MRC@SCORE     (415) 497-1407
   Bob Braden        UCL[A]        braden@ISIA      (uk) (01)387-7050
   Steve Kille       UCL           UCL-Netwiz@ISIE  (uk) (01)387-7050
   Bill Tuck         UCL           UKSAT@ISIE       (uk) (01)387-7050
   Marv Solomon      Univ. Wisc    Solomon@UWisc
   Ed Taft           Xerox Parc    Taft@Parc-Maxc      (415) 494-4419

Postel                                                          [Page 6]