If X.400 needs anything at all it is the boost it is going to get from MIME.
I think that without MIME the fate of X.400 is quite certain -- it will go the
way of dinosaurs eventually.
But with MIME it is possible for the first time to deploy X.400 locally and
actually get some benefit out of it. Currently all you get when you deploy
X.400 on a local network is a headache. None of the advantages it offers are
useful because they do not interoperate across most WANs, and the Internet
in particular. So all you get is the tremendous headache that comes when
you install any piece of sophisticated networking software. No matter how well
an implementation is designed there's just no way to make complex software
trivial to deal with. (And this supposes that most X.400 implementations are
clean and sweet. My experience says that this is far from true -- most of them
The result is sites are staying away from X.400 in droves. I deal with dozens,
even hundreds, of sites that do use X.400, and almost without exception their
reasons for using it have nothing to do with any actual benefit it gives.
(This is the "age of reason", after all: (1) because it is mandated by GOSIP,
(2) because upper level management went to some conference and heard about it,
(3) because some contract requires it, or (4) because someone else installed
it and wants someone, anyone, to talk to. The age of reason indeed ;-) And
keep in mind that these sites are a small minority. Most of them look and
never consider X.400 again.
But MIME changes all this. For the first time you can install X.400 locally
and hope to get some actual tangible benefit out of it because there's some
chance that you'll be able to interoperate over a WAN with some of your
I realize that this turns the usual model for these things on its head. The
usual idea is to use X.400 globally and something else locally. But I don't
see any way to get to this without finding some way to bootstrap it off the
existing infrastructure. In other words, MIME.
I quite frankly don't know if MIME is enough to save X.400. What I do know is
that without MIME X.400 will remain in the doldrums where it has been all
It is possible that some radical rethink of X.400 would also suffice to change
the way the world sees it. But it would have to be radical, and I don't see
much likelihood of that happening now.
I'm sorry if this sounds like a very negative review of X.400 overall. I
actually like quite a bit of X.400, and I see great promise in parts of it.
But most of what I've said here is not based on my personal feeling for
or against X.400, it is instead based on what I hear on the phone and via
e-mail talking to customers every day. And when you consider that these
are customers who have access to a readily available commercial X.400
implementation that has been around for a while, is considered to be
reasonably bug free if not exactly spectacular, and is fairly reasonably
priced (no, I had nothing to do with the writing of all this), you might
just have to admit this view is somewhat optimistic.