Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages ("mail") between people using electronic devices. Invented by Ray Tomlinson, email first entered limited use in the 1960s and by the mid-1970s had taken the form now recognized as email. Email operates across computer networks, which today is primarily the Internet. Some early email systems required the author and the recipient to both be online at the same time, in common with instant messaging. Today's email systems are based on a store-and-forward model. Email servers accept, forward, deliver, and store messages. Neither the users nor their computers are required to be online simultaneously; they need to connect only briefly, typically to a mail server or a webmail interface, for as long as it takes to send or receive messages.

Originally an ASCII text-only communications medium, Internet email was extended by Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) to carry text in other character sets and multimedia content attachments. International email, with internationalized email addresses using UTF-8, has been standardized, but as of 2017 it has not been widely adopted.[2]

The history of modern Internet email services reaches back to the early ARPANET, with standards for encoding email messages published as early as 1973 (RFC 561). An email message sent in the early 1970s looks very similar to a basic email sent today. Email had an important role in creating the Internet,[3] and the conversion from ARPANET to the Internet in the early 1980s produced the core of the current services.

Historically, the term electronic mail was used generically for any electronic document transmission. For example, several writers in the early 1970s used the term to describe fax document transmission.[4][5] As a result, it is difficult to find the first citation for the use of the term with the more specific meaning it has today.

Electronic mail has been most commonly called email or e-mail since around 1993,[6] but variations of the spelling have been used:

An Internet e-mail consists[24] of an envelope and content; the content in turn consists[25] of a header and a body.

Computer-based mail and messaging became possible with the advent of time-sharing computers in the early 1960s, and informal methods of using shared files to pass messages were soon expanded into the first mail systems. Most developers of early mainframes and minicomputers developed similar, but generally incompatible, mail applications. Over time, a complex web of gateways and routing systems linked many of them. Many US universities were part of the ARPANET (created in the late 1960s), which aimed at software portability between its systems. That portability helped make the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) increasingly influential.

For a time in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it seemed likely that either a proprietary commercial system or the X.400 email system, part of the Government Open Systems Interconnection Profile (GOSIP), would predominate. However, once the final restrictions on carrying commercial traffic over the Internet ended in 1995,[26][27] a combination of factors made the current Internet suite of SMTP, POP3 and IMAP email protocols the standard.

This page was last edited on 17 July 2018, at 13:12 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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