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Re: Improving the handling of conversations in Internet mail

1993-12-09 15:06:44
I do not understand how use of Followup-To in mail would cause any havoc
in Netnews. You will have to explain this havoc to me.

The only allowable values for the Followup-To line in netnews is either
a list of newsgroups, or the special keyword "poster".  E-mail addresses
are not allowed, although some software (a small minority) is lenient
enough to accept e-mail addresses there.  Hence, any gateway from mail
to news will need updating to either drop the mail-based Followup-To,
or try to interpret the e-mail addresses and turn mailing list addresses
into newsgroup names.  The number of mail to news gateways and software
packages makes this a very difficult task.

Netnews is a unique environment.  If you inject a slightly malformed
article into the mail system, the most you'll do is crash your site and
the receiving site.  Inject it into netnews, and you'll crash sites all
over the world, making yourself extremely unpopular.  Changing the netnews
environment is an NP-complete problem: ask Henry Spencer.

                                                  Also, using Followup-To
is a way of saying that you are yourself a member of the list, and need
not get any replies as personal mail direct from the author to you.

While this would be useful, this is probably better handled by smarter
user agents that allow recipients to tag which addresses belong to mailing
lists so the UA can ask the user if mail should be sent to both a mailing
list address and the author.  Making user agents smarter with respects
to mailing lists is something that needs to be done anyway.

This would not cause any problem in gatewaying to netnews, but would
rather make such gatewaying easier, by using Followup-To in a consistent
manner for both Newsgroups and Distribution lists.

(In fact, I would like to merge the functionalities of Netnews and mailing
lists into one composite service. The present proposal is a small step
in that direction.)

This would be nice, but the nature of netnews dictates that upgrades need
to happen in a fashion that breaks the minimum amount of software possible.
Very few newsreaders recognise e-mail addresses in the Followup-To line.
In fact, I know of only 1, and it isn't one of the mainstream newsreaders.

                 "Reply-To" does not indicate a replacement for
all the recipients of the replied-to message.

Fair enough, but breaking netnews is not the best way to get this feature.

This would require changes to every mailer in existence to make it widespread
enough to be effective.  Do you volunteer to do this work?

Is it your opinion that mail standards should never be made better
because everyone will not implement it? I volunteer to ensure that
the work is done for the mailer I am responsible for!

And I'd volunteer for my mailers also, but frankly I can't see that breaking
netnews is the way to get it.  Netnews will evolve in its own sweet time,
and no amount of "specifying before the fact" will move it along.  Other
standards, such as MIME, add to existing standards rather than fundamentally
changing the existing mechanisms.

In itself, the idea is good, but the name will cause interoperability
problems on a devasting scale.