Re: history of using a comment for display-name?

"Maynard Kang" <maynard@pobox.org.sg> Mon, 12 March 2001 16:26 UTC

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From: "Maynard Kang" <maynard@pobox.org.sg>
To: "Keith Moore" <moore@cs.utk.edu>
Cc: <drums@cs.utk.edu>
References: <200103121330.IAA12426@astro.cs.utk.edu>
Subject: Re: history of using a comment for display-name?
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2001 08:23:05 -0800
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> nope.  that's not what section 3.4.3 means.

So what does it exactly mean then? Perhaps Dave would be the better person
to answer this. The way I interpret it is that comments should be shown
when the message is being read, but should not be used when the message is
being transmitted.

>
> in practice, comments were the "preferred form" of representing names
> for many years after RFC 822 was published.  this was due to several
> reasons:
>
> - there were rumors of old mailers still in use that couldn't handle a
>   phrase before the address
>
> - Usenet (RFC 1036) used comments, didn't support phrase, and gateways
>   between mail and news were fairly common.
>
> - many mailers could be configured to automatically add a name as a
>   phrase but would not quote that name if it contained special
>   characters (most notably ".") - thus mailers configured to use
>   phrase for name developed a reputation for producing badly
>   formed messages.
>
> - people didn't update their old sendmail.cf files, thus use of
>   comments for names remained quite common and thus seemed "normal".

I guess as a developer of e-mail software I find it mildly irritating that
I've always had to write code to support both the "phrase route-addr" and
"addr-spec (comments)" formats in e-mail headers. You can imagine the
problem getting worse when dealing with non-ASCII in headers.. Some
non-compliant mail software just insert double-byte characters liberally
into the phrase component (and to make matters worse, quote the string, and
escape out other quotes within the string which may be part of a
double-byte character!)

This might be flogging a dead horse, but I think we should state, in any
update to RFC 822, that the "phrase route-addr" format MUST be supported
and that comments in addr-spec are NOT RECOMMENDED. It seems to me that the
problems you have described above are more or less legacy problems that
aren't so significant nowadays. Then again, I cannot be sure. Perhaps the
rest of the working group has additional comments.

maynard