Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia Sending Strategy

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The general model of a sender-SMTP is one or more processes that periodically attempt to transmit outgoing mail. In a typical system, the program that composes a message has some method for requesting immediate attention for a new piece of outgoing mail, while mail that cannot be transmitted immediately MUST be queued and periodically retried by the sender. A mail queue entry will include not only the message itself but also the envelope information.

The sender MUST delay retrying a particular destination after one attempt has failed. In general, the retry interval SHOULD be at least 30 minutes; however, more sophisticated and variable strategies will be beneficial when the sender-SMTP can determine the reason for non- delivery.

Retries continue until the message is transmitted or the sender gives up; the give-up time generally needs to be at least 4-5 days. The parameters to the retry algorithm MUST be configurable.

A sender SHOULD keep a list of hosts it cannot reach and corresponding timeouts, rather than just retrying queued mail items.


Experience suggests that failures are typically transient (the target system has crashed), favoring a policy of two connection attempts in the first hour the message is in the queue, and then backing off to once every two or three hours.

The sender-SMTP can shorten the queueing delay by cooperation with the receiver-SMTP. In particular, if mail is received from a particular address, it is good evidence that any mail queued for that host can now be sent.

The strategy may be further modified as a result of multiple addresses per host (see Section 5.3.4), to optimize delivery time vs. resource usage.

A sender-SMTP may have a large queue of messages for each unavailable destination host, and if it retried all these messages in every retry cycle, there would be excessive Internet overhead and the daemon would be blocked for a long period. Note that an SMTP can generally determine that a delivery attempt has failed only after a timeout of a minute or more; a one minute timeout per connection will result in a very large delay if it is repeated for dozens or even hundreds of queued messages.

When the same message is to be delivered to several users on the same host, only one copy of the message SHOULD be transmitted. That is, the sender-SMTP should use the command sequence: RCPT, RCPT,... RCPT, DATA instead of the sequence: RCPT, DATA, RCPT, DATA,... RCPT, DATA. Implementation of this efficiency feature is strongly urged.

Similarly, the sender-SMTP MAY support multiple concurrent outgoing mail transactions to achieve timely delivery. However, some limit SHOULD be imposed to protect the host from devoting all its resources to mail.

The use of the different addresses of a multihomed host is discussed below.

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Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia Sending Strategy