[webfinger] Auto-configuring Email Clients via WebFinger

"Paul E. Jones" <paulej@packetizer.com> Mon, 15 July 2019 19:31 UTC

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From: "Paul E. Jones" <paulej@packetizer.com>
To: "art@ietf.org" <art@ietf.org>, "webfinger@ietf.org" <webfinger@ietf.org>
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2019 19:30:53 +0000
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Subject: [webfinger] Auto-configuring Email Clients via WebFinger
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ART folks,

Several years ago when I was working on WebFinger, one of the use cases 
I presented was using WebFinger to facilitate auto-configuring email 
clients.  It was and still is a problem I deal with today.

For my own family, I have to manually configure several different 
clients on several different platforms for each member of the family.  
It's time consuming and really needs to be made simpler.

My wife also has to deal with this issue where she works, because her 
company, while just 100 or so employees, has offices in two different 
countries and the mail server settings an employee uses depends on his 
or her geographic location.  To use standard IETF protocols, it means a 
lot of manual provisioning.

I see the same sort of challenges with service providers. If one wants 
to have his or her own domain, but isn't technically savvy, they're in 
for a lot of "fun" trying to figure out the various settings. Seriously, 
no normal person should have to understand what SMTP or IMAP means, and 
definitely what port numbers or security settings to fill in.

While there has been a generic DNS-based method for email provision for 
a while, it doesn't work for me. It doesn't work for my wife's company, 
either. It also doesn't define everything one might need to define 
(e.g., required security settings or policies).

So we put together a very simple example to show how this might be done 
with WebFinger.  See the draft here:

The example in that document should make it clear how we intend this to 
work, though the detailed procedures and syntax are missing.  We first 
want to see what interest exists and if this general approach will work 
for everyone before getting into too much detail.

We'd love to have some dialog on this to see how we can address this 
problem of auto-configuring email clients.