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RE: Responses to the list (oops)

> From: Ron Johnson [mailto:ronnyjunior@comcast.net]
> Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 12:50 PM


> http://www.unicom.com/pw/reply-to-harmful.html

This is written from the perspective of Elm being the reference for all
MUA's.  Though I used Elm twenty years ago as my primary MUA, the MUA's in
widest use today do _not_ have reply-to-list functionality and use the
Reply-to: header to direct the reply to the proper address.  This fellow's
citations are as outdated as his MUA.  RFC822 was published in 1982 and
RFC1123 updated it in 1989.  So much has changed since those standards were
published that most people involved in email consider RFC2821/2822,
published in 2001, to be far more relevant, even though those are still
officially classified as proposed standards (the IETF sometimes moves at the
speed of a glacier).  Looking at RFC2822, section 3.6.2:

3.6.2. Originator fields


   The originator fields also provide the information required when
   replying to a message.  When the "Reply-To:" field is present, it
   indicates the mailbox(es) to which the author of the message suggests
   that replies be sent.  In the absence of the "Reply-To:" field,
   replies SHOULD by default be sent to the mailbox(es) specified in the
   "From:" field unless otherwise specified by the person composing the

Now, RFC2821 clearly defines mailing lists as operating on a
"redistribution" model, where the list is considered the new sender.  The
list MUST change the return-path (argument of the MAIL TO: command) to the
list owner (though common practice uses a VERP address instead) and the
original From: header MUST NOT be altered so as to retain the original
author.  Most mailing lists, though not all, choose to set the Sender:
header to the list owner to show that the mail did not come directly from
the original author, but was a bulk redistribution (re-injected into the
internet mail stream) by the list on the author's behalf.  While the RFC's
don't require this, other sections in RFC2822 give the basis for this
practice.  Though the Resent-From: header might have been a better choice,
most sites chose Sender: instead.

Getting back to the reply function, the standards are silent as to how to
treat Reply-To: for a redistributed message and the field is optional to
start with.  The preferred reply action for a mailing list message is to
reply to the list (the actual sender of the message you received) rather
than the original poster (a private reply to a public post, not generally
appropriate).  It is perfectly within the purview of the list to alter the
Reply-To: header so that the most commonly deployed MUA's will perform the
preferred action when the recipient hits reply.

In short, you need a good reason _not_ to do something the same way as the
rest of the world when it comes to email.  The site referred to above does
not make a compelling case given today's normal practices.


Seth Goodman

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