RFC 2142

Network Working Group                                        D. Crocker
Request for Comments: 2142                     Internet Mail Consortium
Category: Standards Track                                      May 1997

                             MAILBOX NAMES FOR

Status of this Memo

   This document specifies an Internet standards track protocol for the
   Internet community, and requests discussion and suggestions for
   improvements.  Please refer to the current edition of the "Internet
   Official Protocol Standards" (STD 1) for the standardization state
   and status of this protocol.  Distribution of this memo is unlimited.


   This specification enumerates and describes Internet mail addresses
   (mailbox name @ host reference) to be used when contacting personnel
   at an organization.  Mailbox names are provided for both operations
   and business functions.  Additional mailbox names and aliases are not
   prohibited, but organizations which support email exchanges with the
   Internet are encouraged to support AT LEAST each mailbox name for
   which the associated function exists within the organization.


   Various Internet documents have specified mailbox names to be used
   when reaching the operators of the new service; for example, [RFC822
   6.3, C.6] requires the presence of a <POSTMASTER@domain> mailbox name
   on all hosts that have an SMTP server.  Other protocols have defacto
   standards for well known mailbox names, such as <USENET@domain> for
   NNTP (see [RFC977]), and <WEBMASTER@domain> for HTTP (see [HTTP]).
   Defacto standards also exist for well known mailbox names which have
   nothing to do with a particular protocol, e.g., <ABUSE@domain> and

   The purpose of this memo is to aggregate and specify the basic set of
   mailbox names which organizations need to support.  Most
   organizations do not need to support the full set of mailbox names
   defined here, since not every organization will implement the all of
   the associated services.  However, if a given service is offerred,
   then the associated mailbox name(es) must be supported, resulting in
   delivery to a recipient appropriate for the referenced service or

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RFC 2142                     Mailbox Names                      May 1997

   If a host is not configured to accept mail directly, but it
   implements a service for which this specification defines a mailbox
   name, that host must have an MX RR set (see [RFC974]) and the mail
   exchangers specified by this RR set must recognize the referenced
   host's domain name as "local" for the purpose of accepting mail bound
   for the defined mailbox name.  Note that this is true even if the
   advertised domain name is not the same as the host's domain name; for
   example, if an NNTP server's host name is DATA.RAMONA.VIX.COM yet it
   advertises the domain name VIX.COM in its "Path:" headers, then mail
   must be deliverable to both <USENET@VIX.COM> and
   <USENET@DATA.RAMONA.VIX.COM>, even though these addresses might be
   delivered to different final destinations.

   The scope of a well known mailbox name is its domain name.  Servers
   accepting mail on behalf of a domain must accept and correctly
   process mailbox names for that domain, even if the server, itself,
   does not support the associated service.  So, for example, if an NNTP
   server advertises the organization's top level domain in "Path:"
   headers (see [RFC977]) the mail exchangers for that top level domain
   must accept mail to <USENET@domain> even if the mail exchanger hosts
   do not, themselves, serve the NNTP protocol.


   For well known names that are not related to specific protocols, only
   the organization's top level domain name are required to be valid.
   For example, if an Internet service provider's domain name is
   COMPANY.COM, then the <ABUSE@COMPANY.COM> address must be valid and
   supported, even though the customers whose activity generates
   complaints use hosts with more specific domain names like
   SHELL1.COMPANY.COM.  Note, however, that it is valid and encouraged
   to support mailbox names for sub-domains, as appropriate.

   Mailbox names must be recognized independent of character case.  For
   example, POSTMASTER, postmaster, Postmaster, PostMaster, and even
   PoStMaStEr are to be treated the same, with delivery to the same

   Implementations of these well known names need to take account of the
   expectations of the senders who will use them.  Sending back an
   automatic mail acknowledgement is usually helpful (though we suggest
   caution against the possibility of "duelling mail robots" and the
   resulting mail loops).

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RFC 2142                     Mailbox Names                      May 1997


   These names are related to an organization's line-of-business
   activities.  The INFO name is often tied to an autoresponder, with a
   range of standard files available.

   MAILBOX        AREA                USAGE
   -----------    ----------------    ---------------------------
   INFO           Marketing           Packaged information about the
                                      organization, products, and/or
                                      services, as appropriate
   MARKETING      Marketing           Product marketing and
                                      marketing communications
   SALES          Sales               Product purchase information
   SUPPORT        Customer Service    Problems with product or


   Operations addresses are intended to provide recourse for customers,
   providers and others who are experiencing difficulties with the
   organization's Internet service.

   MAILBOX        AREA                USAGE
   -----------    ----------------    ---------------------------
   ABUSE          Customer Relations  Inappropriate public behaviour
   NOC            Network Operations  Network infrastructure
   SECURITY       Network Security    Security bulletins or queries


   For major Internet protocol services, there is a mailbox defined for
   receiving queries and reports.  (Synonyms are included, here, due to
   their extensive installed base.)

   -----------    ----------------    ---------------------------
   POSTMASTER     SMTP                [RFC821], [RFC822]
   HOSTMASTER     DNS                 [RFC1033-RFC1035]
   USENET         NNTP                [RFC977]
   NEWS           NNTP                Synonym for USENET
   WEBMASTER      HTTP                [RFC 2068]
   WWW            HTTP                Synonym for WEBMASTER
   UUCP           UUCP                [RFC976]
   FTP            FTP                 [RFC959]

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RFC 2142                     Mailbox Names                      May 1997


   Mailing lists have an administrative mailbox name to which add/drop
   requests and other meta-queries can be sent.

   For a mailing list whose submission mailbox name is:


   there MUST be the administrative mailbox name:


   Distribution List management software, such as MajorDomo and
   Listserv, also have a single mailbox name associated with the
   software on that system -- usually the name of the software -- rather
   than a particular list on that system.  Use of such mailbox names
   requires participants to know the type of list software employed at
   the site.  This is problematic.  Consequently:



   In DNS (see [RFC1033], [RFC1034] and [RFC1035]), the Start Of
   Authority record (SOA RR) has a field for specifying the mailbox name
   of the zone's administrator.

   This field must be a simple word without metacharacters (such as "%"
   or "!" or "::"), and a mail alias should be used on the relevant mail
   exchanger hosts to direct zone administration mail to the appropriate

   For simplicity and regularity, it is strongly recommended that the
   well known mailbox name HOSTMASTER always be used

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RFC 2142                     Mailbox Names                      May 1997


   Several Internet registries implement mailing lists for Autonomous
   System contacts.  So, for example, mail sent to <AS3557@RA.NET> will
   at the time of this writing reach the technical contact for
   Autonomous System 3557 in the BGP4 (see [RFC1654], [RFC1655] and

   Not all Autonomous Systems are registered with all registries,
   however, and so undeliverable mailbox names under this scheme should
   be treated as an inconvenience rather than as an error or a standards


   Denial of service attacks (flooding a mailbox with junk) will be
   easier after this document becomes a standard, since more systems
   will support the same set of mailbox names.


   [RFC821] Postel, J., "Simple Mail Transfer Protocol", STD 10, RFC
   821, Information Sciences Institute, August 1982.

   [RFC822] Crocker, D., "Standard for the format of ARPA Internet text
   messages", STD 11, RFC 822, University of Delaware, August 1982.

   [RFC959] Postel, J., and J. Reynolds, "File Transfer Protocol (FTP)",
   STD 9, RFC 959, Information Sciences Institute, October 1985.

   [RFC974] Partridge, C., "Mail routing and the domain system", STD 14,
   RFC 974, CSNET CIC BBN Laboratories Inc, January 1986.

   [RFC976] Horton, M., "UUCP mail interchange format standard", RFC
   976, Bell Laboratories, February 1986.

   [RFC977] Kantor, B., et al, "Network News Transfer Protocol: A
   Proposed Standard for the Stream-Based Transmission of News", RFC
   977, University of California, February 1986.

   [RFC1033] Lottor, M., "Domain administrators operations guide", RFC
   1033, SRI International, November 1987.

   [RFC1034] Mockapetris, P., "Domain names - concepts and facilities",
   STD 13, RFC 1035, USC/Information Sciences Institute, November 1987.

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RFC 2142                     Mailbox Names                      May 1997

   [RFC1035] Mockapetris, P., "Domain Names - Implementation and
   Specification" STD 13, RFC 1035, USC/Information Sciences Institute,
   November 1987.

   [RFC1654] Rekhter, Y., et al, "A Border Gateway Protocol 4 (BGP- 4)",
   RFC 1654, T.J. Watson Research Center, IBM Corp., July 1994.

   [RFC1655] Rekhter, Y., et al, "Application of the Border Gateway
   Protocol in the Internet", RFC 1655, T.J. Watson Research Center, IBM
   Corp., July 1994.

   [RFC1656] Traina, P., "BGP-4 Protocol Document Roadmap and
   Implementation Experience", RFC 1656, cisco Systems, July 1994.

   [HTTP] Berners-Lee, T., et al, "Hypertext Transfer Protocol --
   HTTP/1.0", RFC 1945, May 1996.


   This specification derived from an earlier draft written by Paul
   Vixie.  Thanks to Stan Barber, Michael Dillon, James Aldridge, J.  D.
   Falk, Peter Kaminski, Brett Watson, Russ Wright, Neal McBurnett, and
   Ed Morin for their comments on that draft.


   Dave Crocker
   Internet Mail Consortium
   127 Segre Ave.
   Santa Cruz, CA

   Phone: +1 408 246 8253
   EMail: dcrocker@imc.org

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