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LinuxDig.com Request For Comments

RFC Number : 2852

Title : Deliver By SMTP Service Extension.






Network Working Group D. Newman
Request for Comments: 2852 Sun Microsystems
Updates: 1894 June 2000
Category: Standards Track


Deliver By SMTP Service Extension

Status of this Memo

This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
improvements. Please refer to the current edition of the 'Internet
Official Protocol Standards' (STD 1) for the standardization state
and status of this protocol. Distribution of this memo is unlimited.

Copyright Notice

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000). All Rights Reserved.

Abstract

This memo defines a mechanism whereby a SMTP client can request, when
transmitting a message to a SMTP server, that the server deliver the
message within a prescribed period of time. A client making such a
request also specifies the message handling which is to occur if the
message cannot be delivered within the specified time period: either
the message is to be returned as undeliverable with no further
processing, or a 'delayed' delivery status notification (DSN) [6] is
to be issued.

This extension should not be viewed as a vehicle for requesting
'priority' processing. A receiving SMTP server may assign whatever
processing priority it wishes to a message transmitted with a Deliver
By request. A Deliver By request serves to express a message's
urgency and to provide an additional degree of determinancy in its
processing. An indication of an urgent message's status within a
given time period may be requested and will be honored. Moreover,
the message may be withdrawn if not delivered within that time
period.

A typical usage of this mechanism is to prevent delivery of a message
beyond some future time of significance to the sender or recipient
but not known by the MTAs handling the message. For instance, the
sender may know that the message will be delivered as a page but does
not consider the message to be sufficiently important as to warrant
paging the recipient after business hours. In that case, the message
could be marked such that delivery attempts are not made beyond



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RFC 2852 Deliver By SMTP Service Extension June 2000


17:00. Another common usage arises when a sender wishes to be
alerted to delivery delays. In this case, the sender can mark a
message such that if it is not delivered within, say, 30 minutes, a
'delayed' DSN is generated but delivery attempts are nonetheless
continued. In this case the sender has been allowed to express a
preference for when they would like to learn of delivery problems.

1. Definitions

Throughout this document, the term 'deliver' is taken to mean the act
of transmitting a message to its 'final' destination by a message
transport agent (MTA). Usually, but not always, this means storing
or otherwise handing off the message to the recipient's mailbox.
Thus, an MTA which accepts a message to be delivered within a
specified time period is agreeing to store or handoff the message to
the recipient's mailbox within the specified time period. Outside
the scope of the term 'deliver' are any user-specified actions which
might take place after the MTA stores or hands off the message; e.g.,
user-programmed filters which, often unbeknownst to the MTA, resend
the message to some other location.

The key words 'MUST', 'MUST NOT', 'SHOULD' and 'SHOULD NOT' in this
document are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119 [7].

2. Framework for the Deliver By SMTP service extension

The Deliver By SMTP service extension uses the SMTP service extension
mechanism described in [4]. The following SMTP service extension is
therefore defined:

(1) The name of the SMTP service extension is 'Deliver By'.

(2) The EHLO keyword value associated with this service extension is
'DELIVERBY'.

(3) One optional parameter is allowed with this EHLO keyword value.
The optional parameter, when supplied, is a comma separated list
of options. Only one option, a min-by-time, is specified in
this document. Future documents may extend this specification
by specifying additional options. The min-by-time is a fixed
integer indicating the fixed minimum by-time that the server
will accept when a by-mode of 'R' is specified as per Section 4.

The syntax of the optional parameter is as follows, using the
augmented BNF notation of RFC 2234 [2]:






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deliverby-param = min-by-time *( ',' extension-token )
min-by-time = [1*9DIGIT]
extension-token = 1* characters (US ASCII 0-31 inclusive)>
SP =
COMMA =

If the parameter is omitted, no information is conveyed about
the server's fixed minimum by-time.

(4) One optional parameter using the keyword 'BY' is added to the
MAIL FROM command.

(5) The maximum length of a MAIL FROM command line is increased by
17 characters by the possible addition of the BY keyword and
value.

(6) No additional SMTP verbs are defined by this extension.

3. The Deliver By SMTP service extension

A SMTP client wishing to use the Deliver By SMTP service extension
may issue the EHLO command to start a SMTP session and to determine
if the SMTP server supports the service extension. If the server
responds with code 250 to the EHLO command, and the response includes
the EHLO keyword DELIVERBY, then the Deliver By SMTP service
extension is supported by the server.

If a numeric parameter follows the DELIVERBY keyword value of the
EHLO response then that parameter indicates the minimum value allowed
for the by-time when a by-mode of 'R' is specified with the extended
MAIL FROM command as described in Section 4. Any attempt by a client
to specify a by-mode of 'R' and a by-time strictly less than this
limit, min-by-time, will be rejected with a permanent failure (55z)
reply code.

A SMTP server that supports the Deliver By SMTP service extension
will accept the extended version of the MAIL FROM command described
in Section 4. When supported by the server, a SMTP client may use
the extended MAIL FROM command (instead of the MAIL FROM command
described in [1]) to request that the message be delivered within the
specified time period. The server may then return an appropriate
error code if it determines that the request cannot be honored. Note
that this may not be apparent to the server until either presentation
of the recipient addresses with RCPT TO commands or completion of the
transfer of the message data with the dot (.) command. As such, the





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server may send to the client a success response to the MAIL FROM
command only to later return an error response to the RCPT TO, DATA,
or dot command.

4. The extended MAIL FROM command

The extended MAIL FROM command is issued by a SMTP client when it
wishes to inform a SMTP server that a message is to be delivered
within a specified period of time and further what action to take
should the message prove undeliverable within that time period. The
extended MAIL FROM command is identical to the MAIL FROM command as
defined in RFC 821 [1], except that a BY parameter appears after the
address.

The complete syntax of this extended command is defined in [4]. The
esmtp-keyword is 'BY' and the syntax for the esmtp-value is given by
the syntax for by-value shown below. In the augmented BNF of RFC
2234 [2], the syntax for the BY esmtp-parameter is

by-parameter = 'BY='by-value
by-value = by-time';'by-mode[by-trace]
by-time = ['-' / '+']1*9digit ; a negative or zero value is not
; allowed with a by-mode of 'R'
by-mode = 'N' / 'R' ; 'Notify' or 'Return'
by-trace = 'T' ; 'Trace'

Note that the BY esmtp-keyword MUST have an associated esmtp-value.
The by-time is a decimal representation of the number of seconds
within which the message should be delivered and has the range

-999,999,999 seconds <= by-time <= +999,999,999 seconds

and is thus sufficient to represent a time anywhere from
approximately 31.6 years in the past to 31.6 years in the future.

As described in Section 4.1, the by-mode indicates the action the
SMTP server must take should it not be possible to transmit the
message within by-time seconds.

Note that by-time is a delta time: the number of seconds within which
to deliver the message. This delta time does not extend an MTA's
normal retention period for undeliverable messages nor is it a
'deliver after' time.

A delta time is used so as to prevent problems associated with
differences in system clocks between clients and servers. Servers in
receipt of a valid by-parameter are expected to convert the by-time
into a locale-specific absolute time called the deliver-by-time.



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This is done by adding the by-time upon receipt to the current
locale-specific time and thereby arriving at a locale-specific
absolute time which is by-time seconds in the future or past,
depending upon the arithmetic sign of by-time. The message is then
to be delivered by the deliver-by-time. The sending client and
receiving server should assume the transmission time of the MAIL FROM
command to be instantaneous. Clearly, it will not be and network
latency will introduce an error, the nature of which will be to
extend slightly the effective by-time. The more hops the message
takes, the more pronounced the effect will be owing to the cumulative
nature of this latency-induced error.

In the case of a by-mode of 'N', it is possible that by-time may be
zero or negative. This is not an error and should not be rejected as
such. It indicates a message for which the deliver-by-time occurred
-(by-time) seconds in the past. [Here, '-(by-time)' represents the
arithmetic negation of the by-time value.] Zero and negative values
are allowed so as to preserve information about any requested
delivery time information -- information which the delivering MTA may
wish to include with the delivered message for the benefit of the
recipient or to show in a DSN or NDN (non delivery notification).

In the case of a by-mode of 'R', a zero or negative by-time is a
syntax error. In such a case, the SMTP server SHOULD return a
permanent failure (501) SMTP reply code in response to the extended
MAIL FROM command. If the SMTP server also supports enhanced error
codes [8], then an enhanced error code of 5.5.4 SHOULD also be
returned.

If the by-time is a valid by-time specification but the SMTP server
cannot honor or accept it for a server-specific reason, then SMTP
server SHOULD respond with either a 455 SMTP response if the
condition is transient or a 555 SMTP response if the condition is
permanent. In addition, if the SMTP server also supports [8], a
suitable 4.X.X or 5.X.X enhanced error code SHOULD also be returned.

4.1. Server behavior upon receipt of the extended MAIL FROM command

Upon receipt of an extended MAIL FROM command containing a valid BY
parameter, a SMTP server and associated MTA must handle the message
in accord with the following subsections, Sections 4.1.1-4.1.5.
Delivery status notifications generated in response to processing a
message with a Deliver By request should include both the optional
Arrival-Date DSN field as well as the new Deliver-By-Date DSN field
described in Section 5 of this memo.






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A by-time Note that a message's by-time does not extend the MTA's
normal message retention period: an MTA MAY return a message as
undeliverable before the deliver-by-time has been reached.

4.1.1. Successful delivery

If the message is delivered before deliver-by-time, no special action
need be taken. If the SMTP server or MTA also supports the Delivery
Status Notification SMTP service extension [5] and a NOTIFY parameter
including 'SUCCESS' was specified, a 'delivered' DSN with appropriate
status must be returned as per [5].

4.1.2. Unsuccessful delivery; deliver-by-time not yet reached

If deliver-by-time has not yet passed and the message has proved
undeliverable for temporary reasons, then the SMTP server or MTA
should continue delivery or relay attempts as per the site's message
handling policy. If the MTA's message retention period is less than
by-time, the MTA MAY return the message as undeliverable before
deliver-by-time has been reached. However, the message MUST still be
handled in accord with Sections 4.1.1-4.1.5.

If deliver-by-time has not yet passed and the message cannot be
delivered for permanent reasons, then the SMTP server or MTA MUST
return a 'failed' DSN with an appropriate status for each recipient
address with either no NOTIFY parameter specified or for which the
NOTIFY parameter includes 'FAILURE'.

4.1.3. Time has expired; deliver-by-time reached or passed

If the message is not delivered or relayed before deliver-by-time and
a by-mode of 'R' was specified, no further delivery attempts may be
made for the message. The server or MTA MUST issue a 'failed' DSN
with status 5.4.7, 'delivery time expired', for each recipient
address with either no NOTIFY parameter specified or for which the
NOTIFY parameter includes 'FAILURE'.

If the message is not delivered or relayed before deliver-by-time and
a by-mode of 'N' was specified, the server or MTA should continue
attempts to deliver or relay the message using the site's message
handling policy. In addition, the server or MTA MUST issue a
'delayed' DSN with status 4.4.7, 'delivery time expired', for each
recipient address with either no NOTIFY parameter specified or for
which the NOTIFY parameter includes 'DELAY'.







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4.1.4. Relaying to another SMTP server

Sections 4.1.4.1 and 4.1.4.2 below describe when a message with a
Deliver By request may be relayed to another SMTP server and what
additional actions, if any, should or must be taken. In addition to
that discussed in those sections, the following must also be observed
when relaying is permitted.

If the message is relayed to a SMTP server that supports the Deliver
By extension, a new BY parameter MUST be relayed specifying a by-time
value indicating the number of seconds remaining until deliver-by-
time. The new by-time value should be computed as close to the time
the MAIL FROM command is transmitted by the relaying SMTP client as
is reasonably possible. Note that if deliver-by-time has passed, the
relayed by-time will be a negative value indicating how may seconds
has elapsed since delivery-by-time. Such a case -- relay of a
message for which deliver-by-time has just arrived or passed -- may
only happen with a message that has a by-mode of 'N'.

When a message with a by-trace field with value 'T' is relayed, a
'relayed' DSN SHOULD be generated by the relaying SMTP client for
each recipient which either did not specify a NOTIFY parameter or the
NOTIFY parameter does not have the value 'NEVER'.

Note that these 'relayed' DSNs are generated regardless of whether
success notifications were explicitly requested with a NOTIFY=SUCCESS
parameter. Note further that the 'relayed' DSNs discussed here are
not terminal notifications: downstream SMTP servers and MTAs may
still support [5] and as such additional notifications may still
result.

4.1.4.1. Relaying a message with a by-mode of 'R'

A message for which a by-mode of 'R' was specified MUST NOT be
relayed to a SMTP server which does not support the Deliver By SMTP
service extension. Moreover, the server to which it is relayed MUST
NOT have a fixed minimum by-time which is greater than the time
remaining in which the message is to be delivered. The fixed minimum
by-time is expressed by the optional deliverby-param discussed in
Section 2.

If the message requires relaying in order to be delivered yet cannot
be relayed, then the message is deemed to be undeliverable for
permanent reasons and Section 4.1.2 should be applied.







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4.1.4.2. Relaying a message with a by-mode of 'N'

A message with a by-mode of 'N' may be relayed to another server
regardless of whether or not the SMTP server to which it is relayed
supports the Deliver By extension.

If the message is relayed before deliver-by-time to a SMTP server
that does not support the Deliver By extension, then the relaying
SMTP client MUST issue a 'relayed' DSN for each recipient which
either did not specify a NOTIFY parameter or the NOTIFY parameter
does not have the value 'NEVER'. Further, if the SMTP server being
relayed to supports the Delivery Status Notification SMTP service
extension [5] then for each recipient: if no NOTIFY parameter was
supplied, 'NOTIFY=FAILURE,DELAY' SHOULD be requested; if a NOTIFY
parameter was specified and does not have the value 'NEVER', 'DELAY'
SHOULD be added to the list of notify-list-element values if not
already present. Note that this explicitly overrides the 'MUST NOT'
wording of Section 6.2.1(c) of [5].

4.1.5. Relaying to a foreign mail system

If the foreign mail system supports semantics similar to the Deliver
By SMTP service extension described in this memo, then convey the
Deliver By request to that system. Otherwise, relay the message as
if relaying to a SMTP server which does not support the Deliver By
extension.

5. Delivery status notifications and extension

The format of delivery status notifications (DSNs) is specified in
[6]. DSNs generated in response to a Deliver By request should
include an Arrival-Date DSN field. This memo also extends the per-
message-fields of [6] to include a new DSN field, Deliver-By-Date,
indicating the deliver-by-time as computed by the MTA or SMTP server
generating the DSN. In the augmented BNF of RFC 822 [2], per-
message-fields is therefore extended as follows:

per-message-fields =
[ original-envelope-id-field CRLF ]
reporting-mta-field CRLF
[ dsn-gateway-field CRLF ]
[ received-from-mta-field CRLF ]
[ arrival-date-field CRLF ]
[ deliver-by-date-field CRLF ]
*( extension-field CRLF )
deliver-by-date-field = 'Deliver-by-date' ':' date-time





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where date-time is a RFC 822 [2] date-time field as ammended by RFC
1123 [3].

6. Examples

In the following sample SMTP dialog, the SMTP client requests that a
message from be delivered to
within 2 minutes (120 seconds) and returned
otherwise. This request takes the form of a BY parameter on the MAIL
FROM line of 'BY=120;R' as shown below:

S: 220 acme.net SMTP server here
C: EHLO bigbiz.com
S: 250-acme.net
S: 250 DELIVERBY
C: MAIL FROM: BY=120;R
S: 250 sender ok
C: RCPT TO:
S: 250 recipient ok

Suppose now that the receiving SMTP server in the above example needs
to relay the message to another SMTP server, mail.other.com. Owing
to the original by-mode of 'R', the message may only be relayed to
another SMTP server which supports the Deliver By extension (Section
4.1.4). Further, when relaying the message, the Deliver By request
must be relayed. With this in mind, consider the following SMTP
dialog:

S: 220 mail.other.com ESMTP server at your service
C: EHLO acme.net
S: 250-mail.other.com
S: 250 DELIVERBY 240
C: QUIT

In the above dialog, the relaying SMTP server, acme.net, connects to
mail.other.com and issues an EHLO command. It then learns that the
Deliver By extension is supported but that the minimum by-time for a
by-mode of 'R' is 4 minutes (240 seconds). This value exceeds the
message's original by-time and therefore necessarily exceeds the
remaining by-time. The relaying SMTP server thus ends the SMTP
session after which it must either attempt to follow any other MX
records or, if there are no more MX records to follow, must return
the message as undeliverable. Similar behavior would result if the
EHLO command was met with an error or did not include the DELIVERBY
keyword.

Consider instead, the relaying SMTP session:




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S: 220 mail.other.com ESMTP server at your service
C: EHLO acme.net
S: 250-mail.other.com
S: 250 DELIVERBY 30
C: MAIL FROM: BY=98;R
S: 250 Sender okay
C: RCPT TO:
S: 250 Recipient okay

In the above, the relaying SMTP client relays the BY parameter with
the by-mode preserved and the by-time computed to be the remaining
number of seconds at the approximate time that the MAIL FROM command
was transmitted from the relaying SMTP client (acme.net) to the
receiving SMTP server (mail.other.com). In this example, 22 seconds
have elapsed since acme.net received the MAIL FROM line from the
original sending client and relayed the Deliver By request to
mail.other.com.

7. MX based relaying considerations

Sites which wish to use the Deliver By SMTP service extension and
which direct their mail via MX records [9] need to ensure that all of
their MX hosts -- hosts to which their mail is directed by MX records
-- support the Deliver By extension. SMTP clients which support
Deliver By SHOULD NOT attempt multiple MX hosts looking for one which
supports Deliver By.

MX hosts should pay careful attention to the min-by-time value they
present in response to EHLO commands. It is not practical for an MX
host to present a value which either (1) is substantially different
from that which can be handled by the destination host to which it
relays, or (2) doesn't recognize normal delivery latencies introduced
when the MX host relays mail to the destination host.

8. Security Considerations

Implemention of Deliver By allows tracing of a mail transport system.
The by-trace field 'T' explicitly requests that a trace be generated.
Moreover, even when the by-trace field is not used, a crude trace may
be generated by entering a series of messages into the transport
system, each with successively increasing by-time values; e.g.,
'BY=0;R', 'BY=1;R', 'BY=2;R'. Probing, and in some cases tracing, can
be accomplished through other means: querying the visible SMTP
servers, investigating Received: header lines in bounced messages,
and using utilities such as 'traceroute'.






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9. Other Considerations

SMTP servers which support the Deliver By SMTP service extension as
well as their associated MTAs are not required to assign any special
processing priority to messages with Deliver By requests. Of course,
some SMTP servers and MTAs may do so if they desire. Moreover,
delivery status notifications generated in response to messages with
Deliver By requests are not required to receive any special
processing. Consequently, users of this service should not, in
general, expect expedited processing of their messages. Moreover,
just because a message is sent with a 'BY=60;R' parameter does not
guarantee that the sender will learn of a delivery failure within any
specified time period as the DSN will not necessarily be expedited
back to sender.

10. Acknowledgments

The author wishes to thank Keith Moore for providing much of the
initial impetus for this document as well as the basic ideas embodied
within it. Further thanks are due to Ned Freed and Chris Newman for
their reviews of this document and suggestions for improvement.






























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11. References

[1] Postel, J., 'Simple Mail Transfer Protocol', STD 10, RFC 821,
August 1982.

[2] Crocker, D., Editor, and P. Overell, 'Augmented BNF for Syntax
Specifications: ABNF', RFC 2234, November 1997.

[3] Braden, R., Editor, 'Requirements for Internet Hosts --
Application and Support', STD 3, RFC 1123, October 1989.

[4] Rose, M., Stefferud, E., Crocker, D., Klensin, J. and N. Freed,
'SMTP Service Extensions', STD 10, RFC 1869, November 1995.

[5] Moore, K., 'SMTP Service Extension for Delivery Status
Notifications', RFC 1891, January 1996.

[6] Moore, K. and G. Vaudreuil, 'An Extensible Message Format for
Delivery Status Notifications', RFC 1894, January 1996.

[7] Bradner, S., 'Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement
Levels', BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

[8] Freed, N., 'SMTP Service Extension for Returning Enhanced Error
Codes', RFC 2034, October 1996.

[9] Partridge, C., 'Mail Routing and the Domain System', STD 14, RFC
974, January 1986.

12. Author's Address

Dan Newman
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
1050 Lakes Drive, Suite 250
West Covina, CA 91790
USA

Phone: +1 626 919 3600
Fax: +1 626 919 3614
EMail: dan.newman@sun.com











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13. Full Copyright Statement

Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2000). All Rights Reserved.

This document and translations of it may be copied and furnished to
others, and derivative works that comment on or otherwise explain it
or assist in its implementation may be prepared, copied, published
and distributed, in whole or in part, without restriction of any
kind, provided that the above copyright notice and this paragraph are
included on all such copies and derivative works. However, this
document itself may not be modified in any way, such as by removing
the copyright notice or references to the Internet Society or other
Internet organizations, except as needed for the purpose of
developing Internet standards in which case the procedures for
copyrights defined in the Internet Standards process must be
followed, or as required to translate it into languages other than
English.

The limited permissions granted above are perpetual and will not be
revoked by the Internet Society or its successors or assigns.

This document and the information contained herein is provided on an
'AS IS' basis and THE INTERNET SOCIETY AND THE INTERNET ENGINEERING
TASK FORCE DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING
BUT NOT LIMITED TO ANY WARRANTY THAT THE USE OF THE INFORMATION
HEREIN WILL NOT INFRINGE ANY RIGHTS OR ANY IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF
MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Acknowledgement

Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
Internet Society.



















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