Archive of UserLand's first discussion group, started October 5, 1998.

XML-RPC Interface for Email

Author:Dave Winer
Posted:10/6/1999; 10:13:10 AM
Msg #:11778 (In response to 0)
Prev/Next:11777 / 11779

Scriptable email thru XML-RPC

We have a customer who wants to, in partnership with UserLand, offer electronic mail thru an XML-RPC interface. After giving this a lot of thought, we think this is a perfect application for XML-RPC, we believe that XML-RPC can add a simple cross-platform interface for electronic mail.

I can't say at this time who the customer is, but they operate a portal, one you've heard of and likely use. They want to offer their users a choice of free email services, however they pay a per-month per-mailbox fee.

They want the email service providers to implement a common XML-RPC-based interface. They want us to go first, to offer such a service, and openly specify the interface, and encourage other back-end service providers to be compatible. They will work with us on the evangelism and they have a big name with a lot of clout. This an excellent opportunity, one of many that are cropping up as XML-RPC matures in the market.

We have a reasonable amount of experience in this area -- in the early days of IAC on the Macintosh, Eudora was one of the most completely scriptable products. Coupled with progress in text editing in Frontier (wrapping headlines) I think we're ready to do something interesting. I'd like to set a goal of editing and reading email in Frontier by the end of 1999.

Open for discussion

Right now UserLand operates a lightweight mail server on an old Macintosh. I think it's EIMS. It works great for our current level of mail usage. But I wouldn't want to build this interface on top of its capabilities, because it will certainly need to scale beyond what that tiny old Mac can do (it's a 68K, with a 1GB hard drive) and I'd rather not implement the back-end twice, once in prototype form, and a second time for real. I also don't want to experiment with our existing mail server because we depend on it. Any glitches there would hurt our business.

I wonder what our choices are. We want a commonly used mail server that can be adapted to support XML-RPC. My gut says it should be an open source mail server, so we can implement the connection with very high performance by writing the handlers in C. But it may be possible to do it with a scripting language as an interface. I don't know what the choices are, it may make sense to use Eric Soroos's code, but I want results reasonably quickly, and I want it to be stable and high bandwidth and effortless for us, almost as soon as it's deployed. I don't want to work around performance limits in the operating system, or necessarily use Frontier as the back-end -- we already have our hands full with Frontier back-end projects.

So, if you had our goal -- high-volume scriptable email thru XML-RPC, what platform choices would you make and what email source code base would you build on?

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