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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 document is a specification of the basic protocol for Internet electronic mail transport. It consolidates, updates, and clarifies several previous documents, making all or parts of most of them obsolete. It covers the SMTP extension mechanisms and best practices for the contemporary Internet, but does not provide details about particular extensions. Although SMTP was designed as a mail transport and delivery protocol, this specification also contains information that is important to its use as a "mail submission" protocol for "split-UA" (User Agent) mail reading systems and mobile environments.

The objective of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) is to transfer mail reliably and efficiently. SMTP is independent of the particular transmission subsystem and requires only a reliable ordered data stream channel. While this document specifically discusses transport over TCP, other transports are possible. Appendices to RFC 821 [1] describe some of them.

An important feature of SMTP is its capability to transport mail across multiple networks, usually referred to as "SMTP mail relaying" (see Section 3.6). A network consists of the mutually-TCP-accessible hosts on the public Internet, the mutually-TCP-accessible hosts on a firewall-isolated TCP/IP Intranet, or hosts in some other LAN or WAN environment utilizing a non-TCP transport-level protocol. Using SMTP, a process can transfer mail to another process on the same network or to some other network via a relay or gateway process accessible to both networks.

In this way, a mail message may pass through a number of intermediate relay or gateway hosts on its path from sender to ultimate recipient. The Mail eXchanger mechanisms of the domain name system (RFC 1035 [2], RFC 974 [12], and Section 5 of this document) are used to identify the appropriate next-hop destination for a message being transported.