Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Communications The Internet Technology

MIME Attachments Are 20 Years Old Today 82

judgecorp writes "MIME email attachments have been around for 20 years, and we now send a trillion every day. The mountains of emails in corporate archives now contain vital information, says MIME inventor Nathaniel Borenstein, which can be mined to expose conspiracies and make businesses more efficient. He also says a one-penny tax on attachments would make him as rich as Germany — if it weren't for the fact that such a charge would have killed MIME."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MIME Attachments Are 20 Years Old Today

Comments Filter:
  • Who is this we? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:01AM (#39317871)

    we now send a trillion every day.

    Only if the "we" includes spam scripts. I suspect the true number of human sent mime emails is well under a billion per day.

    • Yeah, I doubt there's 200 email attachments being sent for every human being on the planet every day. Or maybe my spam filter is a lot better than I thought....

      • Re:Who is this we? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Lennie ( 16154 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:00PM (#39318159)

        Most of the mail that is sent has at least 1 mime type, like text/html and a lot of times it also has a text/plain

        These too are "attachments", the user interface might not show it that way but technically they are the same as any other attachment.

        • by Bogtha ( 906264 )
          No, they aren't. Attachments are multipart/related, HTML email is multipart/alternative. Both are implemented with MIME, but it's wrong to say that HTML emails are just attachments.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            That's not what he said.

          • by jrumney ( 197329 )

            Attachments are multipart/related, HTML email is multipart/alternative.

            If you're going to argue on technical details, at least get them right. Emails with attachments are almost always multipart/mixed. The attachments themselves can be any mime type.

            Multipart/related is a seldom used extension to mime, intended to deal with situations where different parts refer to the same object, such as Macintosh data and resource forks, digital signatures for attached files, etc.

    • Re:Who is this we? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:55AM (#39318135) Homepage

      You underestimate the power of a PHB with a Bcc list.

      • BCC? If only.

        Did you know you can put an unpractically huge number of addresses in the TO: field alone? I love seeing my email address neatly nestled amid 200 others that definitely won't be picked up by spammers, for sure.

      • by sco08y ( 615665 )

        You underestimate the power of a PHB with a Bcc list.

        They only use MIME to wrap their true container format: the almighty PowerPoint presentation.

    • Re:Who is this we? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @01:10PM (#39318439)

      The author didn't say that a trillion emails were sent everyday, he said MIME was used a trillion times everyday. MIME is also used as part of http.

  • by Baldrson ( 78598 ) * on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:03AM (#39317879) Homepage Journal
    Gad, I hate MIME. []
    Larry Wall, 13 Sep 1995
    • by Shag ( 3737 )

      Yeah, what Larry said.

      Although it's kind of cute to get work newsletters where the plain-text part is empty, so my mailer just displays "This message has no content."

    • by inflex ( 123318 )

      Well, humour aside,I really hate MIME as well - I write a few MIME handling tools (ripMIME, alterMIME and such) and I have to say I just HATE IT.

      Would have much rathered we ended up with something more akin to a zip or even tar.gz. Sure Microsoft tried to give us TNEF but that was a disaster for its own reasons.

  • by olsmeister ( 1488789 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:07AM (#39317895)
    Here [] is another interesting interview with Ned Borenstein I read last week.
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:07AM (#39317901) Homepage Journal

    For no option for MIME-formatted mailing list digests!

    It's so silly that I usually have to subscribe to instant mails and write a procmail filter for lists I only read once in a while.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I remember the absolute shitstorm on Usenet when Borenstein posted a mime-format message with image/sound of him and others (Mark Crispin?) performing acapella.

  • uuencode FTW! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ( 245670 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:20AM (#39317959)

    I was trying to remember how I emailed binaries back in the day then I remembered piping uuencode into mail and addresses with bangs and hoping some grouchy admin along the UUCP trail didn't bitch about the traffic. Get off my lawn!

  • by fche ( 36607 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:21AM (#39317969)

    "He also says a one-penny tax on attachments would make him as rich as Germany"

    Just goes to show that the product of multiplying two meaningless numbers is a meaningless number.

    • by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:04PM (#39318179) Homepage Journal

      "He also says a one-penny tax on attachments would make him as rich as Germany"

      Just goes to show that the product of multiplying two meaningless numbers is a meaningless number.

      So it's kinda like a tax break. He could have taxed everyone 1 penny per attachment but he didn't, so he essentially gave everyone 1 penny per email attachment.

      Thus Nathaniel Borenstein has given trillions of dollars to spammers. What a jerk! He should have spent those trillions on more worthy causes.

      (The scary thing is that many lawmakers think along these lines. Money not taken = money given, regardless of logistics or practicality.)

  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:21AM (#39317973)

    Does anyone remember using uuencode and uudecode under Minuet for DOS? I used to use that in the late 1990s on my Tandy 1000 TL. Minuet couldn't read Base64 Mime Attachments.

    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      But besides that, minuet is an example of how good a program can be even on an inferior os. I was suprised (i tested it after working with os/2, solaris and linux). Minuet did everything i needed. In fact it could do so in a few mb of ram, quite fast and stable. If you would give me the choice between webmail an minuet, i still would prefer minuet....

      • I loaded up MINUET a few weeks ago on my DOS machine and it amazingly still works, though it's extremely picky trying to parse any HTTP. Telnet and Gopher still works okay, heh.
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @11:42AM (#39318051) Journal
    A 1-penny tax (assuming it was paid) would not make him as rich as Germany. It would make the U.S. as rich as... well... the U.S. before the second Bush administration. And still have money left over to rescue the U.S. Postal Service.

    For Nathaniel Borenstein to get rich off this, it would have to be a 1-penny licensing fee.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Half of the first page is about how great and amazing Steve Jobs was, despite the fact that he wanted to cock up everything. Can journalists really not write an article about him without sucking up to the guy, even when it's about something he did (or tried to do) WRONG?

  • by drwho ( 4190 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:26PM (#39318255) Homepage Journal

    Or maybe he just popularized it? I don't know. But I get annoyed with these clowns attached to my e-mail messages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward



      Yeah, I know it was a joke, but still...

  • by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @12:34PM (#39318283) Homepage

    MIME is quite amazing, but some of the RFCs such as RFC 2231 [] are a real WTF. I took over maintainership of the MIME::tools Perl module and felt murderous sentiments towards the authors of that RFC...

    • by Alioth ( 221270 )

      It could have been much, much worse. If MIME hadn't have come along, we could have all ended up being forced to use X.400, which like all the ISO-OSI networking stuff, horrific. (And which you have to pay a fee and sign an NDA to get the documentation that is the equivalent of an RFC)

      • Well as an X.400 guy from back in the day ( I had root on the Uk's ADMD)

        OSI was "hard sums" and you had to learn ASN1 just to read the specs but it did do binary well before SMTP. I don't recall a NDA but it was designed by and for PTT's though compared to the on average low quality of RFC's the quality of the standards where much higher much less ignoring the hard stuff which is endemic in internet based standards (wifi being a good example here)
      • by dskoll ( 99328 )

        Heh... I guess it's all relative. :) Every time I get annoyed at Linux, I think of how nasty it would be to run Windows on my desktop and then I calm down.

        Yes, X.400 would've been far, far worse.

    • by rdebath ( 884132 )

      Tell me about it, when I first came across MIME itself it was a real WTF moment!

      I hated quoted printable on sight. HTML(SGML) entities are blissful in comparison (Though I think my favourite idea at the time was the 8bit T.61 character set) . Base64 was good, but hardly unique, XXEncode had been using a similar character encoding for a while.

      But this was small change to the (IMO) real nasty, instead of just having the old RFC822 messages as a pure carrier they were trying to merge it into the standard.

  • Didn't Apple invent and patent MIME attachments (after stealing the idea from Nate)?

    What's that? No? Well they claim to have invented and patented everything else they've stolen, so I figured I had at least a 50/50 shot...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Not as bad as the numerous dick yankers I've had to correct in recent times who've claimed that Linus is the creator of POSIX. Some of the more misinformed ones have claimed that POSIX was a platform and one even claimed (and probably still claims*) that any mention of POSIX in MS Windows is a sign of MS ripping off Linux kernel code.

      So this kind of thing goes around in all circles. It depends on how tolerant you are of people trying to rewrite computing history as to how much of it you'll put up with. Thi
  • I have a friend who has trouble with my sending them copies of email chains as attachments. That is, they want to see some emails I've got so I MIME attach them to an email saying "Here you go."

    Is it really all that tough in Thunderbird to view attachments?

  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Sunday March 11, 2012 @02:27PM (#39318857) Homepage Journal
    on sending pure text as a Word doc attachment?
    • on sending pure text as a Word doc attachment?

      Should be a one dollar tax on that.

      Worse is sending screen shots as word documents rather than a simple jpeg attachment. Anyone doing that should be sent to Gitmo.

      • Once a month one of my clients types out an item they need printed in word, prints it out on their office printer, scans it, places the resulting image in word, and emails us the result. Included in the email are the changes they want made to the type. A small piece of my soul dies when I see that email.
  • "as rich as Germany" before>/i> we gave all that cash to Greece?
  • Try and figure out how to get Explorer to recognize a Dreamweaver template file as a valid HTML document. In my case (Win7) it was a friggin' registry hack.

    Y'know, Microsoft, there ARE still designers who use templates out here. For those shitty little sites that don't deserve more than a few hours work to get them live. And no... people don't use Frontpage anymore. We've moved on. Play well with others, guys. Sheesh.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.