Electronic mail: e-mail

One of the first things an aspiring website needs is a way to receive complaints, comments, and feedback from you dear reader. What better way than with electronic mail, invented by Ray Tomlinson on ARPANET in the 1960s. The first RFC was on September 5th 1973, RFC561, which standardized the network mail headers, not much has changed in the many years following.

Mailing lists

An electronic mailing list or email list is a special use of email that allows for widespread distribution of information to many Internet users. There are some mailing list etiquette which is always nice to follow. A mailing list typically reefers to four things:

  • a list of email addresses,
  • the people (“subscribers”) receiving mail at those addresses, thus defining a community gathered around a topic of interest.
  • the publications (email messages) sent to those addresses, and
  • a reflector, which is a single email address that, when designated as the recipient of a message, will send a copy of that message to all of the subscribers.

Purpose

Mailing lists are commonly used to provide a place for internet wide discussion of a specific topic. It might be discussion of a new standard such as an RFC, or to talk about software development, such as the Linux kernel. Often free software projects will have a number of lists for different purposes. e.g. end users, developers, security announcements, and release announcements.

Mailing lists are used for developers to submit a patch to the software, and discuss development. In the case of Sedna, all development is done through mailing lists, we have three lists:

  • content-discussion — Discussion of the content, proposed new content, patch typos etc.
  • website-discussion — Discussion of the website development, CSS/HTML/indeWeb etc.
  • public — This list is for anything which does not fit into the above two lists.

Archives

Emails can be archived and indexed so conversations, announcements, and historic events may be searched and kept for future generations. Normally archiving of the list is maintained by the list operators, but some organisations, such as Gmane, collect archives from multiple mailing lists (Gmane had archived 20,070 lists). But in February 2018 Gmane seems to have died, resulting in many missing discussions, and HTTP 404s throughout the internet.