better email

Story: Emailing HPCTotal Replies: 6
Author Content
mbaehrlxer

Mar 28, 2012
12:19 PM EST
from: http://societyserver.org/mbaehr/better-email

what i find interesting about this article is not the realization that MPI is like email, but the reverse, that human collaboration using messages is like MPI. the suggestion to use SMTP as a transport for things much more complex than emails is something worth looking at. it relates to my believe that the instant messaging difference does not come from the new protocols like XMPP for jabber but from the new client interface that facilitates short messages in a conversational style. SMTP is equally (if not more) capable of transporting these messages. sure, SMTP is not designed for "instant" messaging. but todays use of SMTP where my local SMTP server talks directly to your SMTP server, makes email is just as instant.

we don't need another protocol, at best we need improved SMTP servers that handle multicast messaging. but the sender/recipient envelope is as simple and timeless as it gets.any additional data can be added in headers, and here is where there is plenty of room for change.

we can make email messages more sophisticated, with additional headers indicating for example whether a message requires an action, or a response or whether it is merely informational. a reply message could then contain headers to show if the message is a response, or a followup question, or just an acknowledgement of the original message.

all we need for this is to add these features into email clients to allow more sophisticated messages to be sent and received.

greetings, eMBee.
Khamul

Mar 28, 2012
4:26 PM EST
Having your own SMTP server for most people is impossible: ISPs don't allow it, and actively block those ports, mainly because it's been abused too much by spammers. If you're going to try to come up with a replacement or supplement for email, you need to make an entirely new protocol which fixes the many deficiencies of SMTP, namely the fact that it has zero security and it's trivial for spammers to abuse it.

mbaehrlxer

Mar 29, 2012
4:21 AM EST
i am not suggesting that everyone needs their own SMTP server, i am only implying that:

email-client -> ISP-A-SMTP-server -> ISP-B-SMTP-server -> email client

is not slower than

jabber-client -> jabber-server-A -> jabber-server-B -> jabber-client

thus demonstrating that SMTP is quite suitable as a protocol for instant messaging.

greetings, eMBee.
Khamul

Mar 29, 2012
2:10 PM EST
But that means you need an email client that's constantly logged into the POP3 SMTP server looking for new emails. SMTP wasn't made for that; IM clients/servers were. I seriously doubt most SMTP server programs are going to work well if they have all their users constantly logged in all at the same time.

mbaehrlxer

Mar 30, 2012
3:44 AM EST
i love talking with smart people. you are right, i ignored the last mile because i read mail on the server (ssh or webmail) where this is a non-issue. polling per pop3 may not be a good idea, but imap handles this case, and improvements are being worked on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Push_e-mail

you may notice that these are improvements for the sake of better email handling, which shows that the problem with polling is not specific to instant messaging. any improvement there will benefit email as well, and hence it makes sense to work on improving email instead of inventing completely new protocols.

greetings, eMBee.
cr

Mar 30, 2012
8:34 AM EST
@khamul: my LAN-local qmail server runs getmail every 5 minutes to query all the servers where I or mine might have mail waiting in the various accounts. (Aside from staying current on mail, that also worked as a keep-alive on a dialup connection which had a 15-minute idle-out.) The transaction takes maybe a second at each stop unless there's mail to fetch; that's not an undue burden on POP3 servers.
Khamul

Mar 30, 2012
1:58 PM EST
@cr: Every 5 minutes is a far cry from "instant messaging". Note the word "instant". With instant messaging, the recipient should see the message within a couple seconds at the very most. If you don't need that kind of latency, that's fine, but don't try to claim that this is equivalent to IM, because it isn't. IMAP, with its instant notifications, however, seems to mostly meet this requirement.

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