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9 TCP/IP Application Layer Protocols, Services and Applications (OSI Layers 5, 6 and 7)
9 TCP/IP Key Applications and Application Protocols
9 TCP/IP File and Message Transfer Applications and Protocols (FTP, TFTP, Electronic Mail, USENET, HTTP/WWW, Gopher)
9 TCP/IP Electronic Mail System: Concepts and Protocols (RFC 822, MIME, SMTP, POP3, IMAP)
9 TCP/IP Electronic Mail Delivery Protocol: The Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP)
SMTP Mail Transaction Process
(Page 3 of 3)
SMTP Mail Transaction Details
Lets take a more detailed look
at the SMTP mail transaction process, using as aids the process diagram
in Figure 305
and the example transaction of Table 250
(which has commands highlighted in bold and replies in italics). The
first two steps in the mail transaction are responsible for providing
the receiving SMTP server with the envelope information just discussed.
The transaction begins by the SMTP sender issuing a MAIL command.
This serves to inform the receiver that a new transaction is commencing,
and also to tell it the from information on the envelope.
Figure 305: SMTP Mail Transaction Process
Once an SMTP session is established between a sender and receiver, each mail transaction consists of a set of three command/reply sequences. The sender is first identified using the MAIL command and the recipients are specified using one or more RCPT commands. The actual mail message is then transferred using the DATA command, which involves a preliminary reply before the actual message is sent, and a completion reply when it has been fully received.
The e-mail address of the
originator is always enclosed in angle brackets (<and
>). The SMTP receiver acknowledges the command with a
250 (OK) reply message, sometimes sending back the
address as a confirmation. For example:
Next, the SMTP sender uses RCPT
commands to specify the intended recipients of the e-mail that is being
sent. Each RCPT line can contain only one recipient, so if multiple
recipients are indicated, two or more RCPT commands must be issued.
Each one normally specifies an e-mail address, but if relaying is being
used, the command may contain routing information as well. (As described
SMTP communication topic, this is not
as commonly done as it was in the past.) For example:
Assuming the server accepts the e-mail,
it will give a 250 OK reply again, such as this:
The SMTP sender then issues the DATA
command, which tells the SMTP receiver that the message is coming:
The SMTP receiver responds with a
354 intermediate reply message, such as this:
354 Enter mail, end with
. on a line by itself
The SMTP sender then sends the e-mail
message, one line at a time, with a single . on a line to
terminate it. The server confirms the receipt of the message with another
250 OK reply, and the transaction is done.
Table 250: Example SMTP Mail Transaction
354 Enter mail, end with "." on a line by itself
From: Joe Sender <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Jane Receiver <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, 1 Jun 2003 14:17:31 0800
Subject: Lunch tomorrow
It's my turn for lunch tomorrow. I was thinking we could
[rest of message]
Hope you are free. Send me a reply back when you get a chance.
Key Concept: After an SMTP session is established, e-mail messages are sent using the SMTP mail transaction process. The SMTP sender starts the transaction by identifying the sender of the e-mail, and then specifying one or more recipients. The e-mail message itself is then transmitted to the SMTP receiver. Each e-mail to be sent is a separate transaction.
Potential Mail Transaction Complications
While this indeed is quite simple,
I should point out that I have only shown an e-mail from a sender to
one recipient, and the case where there are no problems or complications
in the transaction. Due to either command syntax or server issues, it
is possible for various types of errors to occur at different stages
of the process, which may result in the transaction failing. There are
concerns that may come into play, that
may lead to restrictions in what transactions a server may allow.
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Version 3.0 - Version Date: September 20, 2005
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