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To commemorate the 20th anniversary of MIME - the first standardized email attachment – one of MIME’s inventors Dr. Nathaniel Borenstein (who is also Mimecast’s Chief Scientist) presented at Applied Communication Sciences, in Piscataway, New Jersey on the 5th March.

Also make sure you visit our Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/Mimecast) as we will soon post the video of the Telephone Chords barbershop quartet recreating the first attachment sent!

Published in: Technology
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  1. 1. Why Technical Standards Arent Technical:Eight Non-technical Factors in MIMEs Success Nathaniel S. Borenstein Chief Scientist, Mimecast “MIME at 20” ACS, Piscataway, New Jersey March 5, 2012
  2. 2. Outline• What is MIME? (Plenty of folks are fuzzy on this.)• Reasons for MIME’s Success• Measures of MIME’s Success• What’s Not to Love? (MIME’s Downside)• Will MIME Go Away?• Lessons for Future Standards Efforts• Lessons for Changing the World• The Future of MIME
  3. 3. What is MIME?• A way to include all media and all human languages in email, the web, & more – A way to label & register content types – A way to package multiple types together – A way to encode all of this for safe transit of email and other hostile gateways
  4. 4. What is MIME? Content Types• Text/* (text/plain, text/html, …)• Audio/* (audio/wav, ….)• Video/* (video/mpeg, …)• Image/* (image/jpeg, image/gif, …)• Multipart/* (multipart/mixed, /alternative, …)• Message/* (message/rfc822, /delivery-status, …)• Application/* (application/octet-stream, /pdf, …)• Model/* All registered with IANA for global use
  5. 5. What is MIME? Compound Data Content-type: multipart/mixed; boundary=x --x Content-type: text/plain Hello --x Content-type: image/jpeg …. Encoded JPEG image… --x--
  6. 6. What is MIME? Safe EncodingsBinary encoding Content-type: image/jpeg Content-Transfer-Encoding: base64 lOcHlqSIUInFc5Y3dmZBVrnDPnmd0J+ k+DOIwizFG07q+v4nKEYMder8GiUReadable encoding Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Content-type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-8 My Hebrew name is =ED=E5=EC=F9 =EF=E1 =E9=EC=E8=F4=F0
  7. 7. Why was MIME So Successful?• It wasn’t technical brilliance, really – Although technical adequacy mattered• Eight reasons, reflecting – Practical needs – Philosophical approaches – Societal infrastructure – Pragmatic positions
  8. 8. Reason #1: Bellcore• Bellcore circa 1992: a place for research• Product pressures obscure the big picture• Bellcore never made a dime from MIME• Bellcore researchers had a broad mandate – Make people use more bandwidth – Improve the world (Bell Labs legacy)• Such labs are an endangered species!
  9. 9. Reason #2: A Need, an Itch• Universal multimedia communication – An unmet need – An unrecognized need, for most• A personal itch – I wanted email pictures of my grandkids – This made people laugh – But the laugh was on me, too…
  10. 10. I expected them to be cuter! Fortunately, they are now!
  11. 11. Reason #3: Another Need• Non-English speakers needed email too!• Multimedia and multilingual email are fundamentally different needs• But they are not incompatible• Coalitions are powerful!
  12. 12. Reason #4:A Visionary Connected the Dots • Einar Stefferud (1930-2011) introduced me and Ned • Matched complementary needs, interests, aptitudes, temperaments • Learned lessons from X.400 debacle • Shared credit generously
  13. 13. Reason #5: Modest and Realistic Goals• Didn’t try to solve all (or any) thorny outstanding disputes we didn’t need to – JPEG vs GIF vs … – HTML vs DOC vs PDF vs… – English vs Français vs• Gave people a way to choose and to express their choices to each other
  14. 14. Reason #6:Recognizing An Incomplete Vision• You never know what’s coming• You can prescribe everything• We didn’t even try• Instead: An open-ended system• No constraints to future innovation• Remarkably little need to replace MIME in the future
  15. 15. Reason #7: Branding and Marketing• Yes, I told you it was non-technical! The best advice of my career: Give it a catchy name/acronym! Being the author of MIME beats being the author of RFC 1341!Dave Crocker, author of RFC 822, & father of Internet email
  16. 16. Reason #8: Free Software• Metamail brought MIME to older mail UA’s• Reprise: Bellcore made this possible• Need + Free Software = Wildfire• Three days after I released metamail for UNIX, I got the DOS patches!!!• Windows 3.1 & MIME released almost simultaneously – a coincidence?
  17. 17. Measures of MIME’s Success• How often is MIME used? – Impossible to say – Order of magnitude: trillion times/day• The question I’m asked most often: “Have you ever imagined what it would be like if you got a penny each time MIME was used?” Oh, my, yes. I’ll spare you the math. If I made that much money…
  18. 18. I’d be Germany
  19. 19. Of course I’d share with NedHe can beEast Germany;I have moredependents.
  20. 20. But I’d Settle for Less!1 Micropenny/use Or, Ned & I each get 1 Quarter-Romney!(1 millionth of a penny) (.000001 cent) ($0.00000001)= 1 Semi-Romney!
  21. 21. Another Measure of Success• Original MIME RFC (1341): 16 types• February 2012: 1309 types registered application: 957 audio: 133 image: 43 message: 20 model: 15 multipart: 14 text: 57 video: 70
  22. 22. MIME Mimed by Mimes “Slash Fiction” by Seth Schoen and Vera Yin From the MIT Annual Puzzle Contest
  23. 23. What’s Not to Love? (MIME’s Downside)• Fan letters: “The MIME Abortion”• We designed it to be ugly, and succeeded• MIME type vs Content type vs Media type• My own pet peeves: – Content-Disposition not made clear enough – MIME-Version: 1.0 mistake » 19 terabytes/day wasted !!! (7 petabytes/year)
  24. 24. Will MIME Go Away?• Not bloody likely any time soon• Won’t outlast heat death of universe• Not quite horrible enough to die• Entrenched in a useful role – Like AC power wiring – Like the human spine
  25. 25. Lessons for Future Standards Efforts• Be in the right place at the right time. (Or at least be prepared.)• If You Meet Perfection in the Street, Kill It!• If a difference is splittable, do.• People love to see their name in standards documents. Put them there generously.
  26. 26. Lessons for Changing the World• Find your own Bellcore: Room to think• Share the credit. 1% of a big thing beats 100% of nothing• Even geeks need marketing!
  27. 27. The Future of MIMEWhats next for MIME? – Not Much? – All of Human Progress? – Somewhere in Between?Newer Innovations Are Using MIME as building blocks. – Web, social networking – “Reinventing Email” projects – Mimecast: Cloud-based Email Archives as Information Banks, Providing Proactive Intelligence & Analytics to BusinessThe real success: being taken for granted
  28. 28. Any questions?• Nathaniel: nsb@mimecast.com• Ned: ned.freed@mrochek.com Thank you for coming!