Notes On News

The one stop reading center for newsreader writers.

This page is meant as a resource for people who are thinking about writing a newsreader. It contains pointers to the relevant standards, as well as more general documents about news reading.

Since many newsreaders also function as mail readers, some mail topics are also covered here.

News and Mail Standards

RFCs specify anything and everything that's important to the Internet community, but I've picked out some that are of special relevance to mail and news handling.


MIME - let me count thy words:

  1. Multipurpose. MIME is meant to be used to do many different things.
  2. Internet. I think they thought "MIME" was a better acronym than "MME".
  3. Mail. Mail? Why am I blathering on about MIME here, then? Because this is a lie; MIME is used, well, everywhere. And perhaps "MIME" was considered a better acronym than "MIE"?
  4. Extensions. All MIME documents are valid RFC 822 documents, so you can generally send a MIME document anywhere at all.

This sounds very general and nice, but in specific, MIME is a framework for achieving only two things:

That these things which have little to do with each other are specified in the same documents may be considered unfortunate, but it is, in many ways, convenient.

The MIME specification is spread out over a bewildering array of documents. The central documents (RFC2045-2049) define a framework and says how to extend this framework. The rest of the documents extend this framework, and apply the techniques described to new data types and media types. One should read RFC2045 thoroughly to get an idea of the concepts behind MIME. The rest of the documents follow on easily from that.

Implementing MIME support may seem like a daunting task, but it's actually not very complex. There's a lot of coding necessary, and that may be boring, but none of it is very difficult.

The following lists all non-obsolete MIME RFCs. They are listed in what I consider to be a decreasing order of importance. This is subjective, of course, but some of the ones near the end of the list are very obscure indeed.

Before reading an RFC, you should always check the RFC index to see whether the RFC you are about to read has been obsoleted by a later RFC.

Implementation of the MIME standard is, to put it mildly, of varying quality. For more on that subject, I think The MIME Comparison Derby might be interesting reading.

Other Interesting Standards

Standards Bodies and Working Groups

Most of the work on developing standards for the Internet is directed by the IETF, the Internet Engineering Task Force.

Mail standards are being worked on by IMC. Of particular interest right now is this internationalization document that talks about what mail readers should do to be properly internationalized. Keywords: UTF-8, UTF-8 and more UTF-8. And MIME.

Good Net-Keeping Seal Of Approval

A chap called Ron Newman came up with the excellent idea of doing a survey to see which newsreaders complied with the RFCs, and which newsreaders you should avoid like the plague.

He has written a document stating what a newsreader would have to comply with to get the Good Net-Keeping Seal of Approval.

The GNKSA has been revised, and the current version, maintained by Jeroen Scheerder, can be found here.

Other Notes

This is more or less a collection of all interesting documents I've found about news and mail reading.


The books are listed in no particular order, and reviews of the books will be added at a later date.

Other Resources

Discussion on mail software takes place primarily on the newsgroup.


Sources to many readers can be found at Using a more local mirror would probably be a good idea.

A virtually complete list of newsreaders can be found in Statland.

These notes were compiled by Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen. If you have any further documents that you think may be of interest, please do mail them to me at

2000-01-03 00:32:50