More than 300 billion emails are sent every day — meaning that in the time it takes you to read this blog post, there’s a good chance an email will arrive in your inbox.
But have you ever wondered how email actually works? 🤔
Wonder no more. These 10 facts about email will shock and amaze.
1. Both ’email’ and ‘e-mail’ are correct (but one is more correct).
Email is short for electronic mail — but what’s the right way to shorten the term? While using a hyphen (“e-mail”) is grammatically correct, since 2011 the Associated Press stylebook has spelled it without the hyphen.
2. The first email ever sent was transmitted on ARPANET.
The ARPANET network, the predecessor to today’s internet, was launched in 1969 by the U.S. government. Two years later, in 1971, researcher Ray Tomlinson sent the first-ever email on ARPANET.
3. Tomlinson also introduced the @ format for email addresses.
Email was designed from the outset to be sent to specific people. For separating recipients’ usernames and host names, Tomlinson chose the @ symbol. The reason was simple, he later said: the @ doesn’t normally appear in people’s or organizations’ names.
4. Email servers “greet” each other.
SMTP, or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, governs how email servers talk to one another. When sending an email, the very first command an email client provides to an SMTP server is HELO (or EHLO). The server then responds with a HELO of its own. 👋
5. Every email tells you how it got to you.
An email’s header communicates lots of valuable information — like the sender, recipient, and when the message was sent. But it also lists all of the mail servers the message passed through on the way to the recipient’s inbox.
6. There is one protocol for sending email (SMTP) and two for receiving it.
SMTP controls the sending of email, but to receive email you have a choice between two separate protocols. POP, or Post Office Protocol, holds your incoming mail like a post office until it can be downloaded. IMAP, for Internet Message Access Protocol, keeps your mail in a web server instead.
7. An undeliverable email results in a “bounce.”
And there are two kinds of bounce: soft and hard. A soft bounce results when the recipient’s inbox is full or their mail server cannot be reached. A hard bounce occurs when the mail is permanently undeliverable (often due to a misspelled email address or a firewall). Outgoing mail servers will try to redeliver soft-bounced mails 7️⃣ times before classifying them as undeliverable.
8. Spam was named for a Monty Python skit.
The term “spam” was coined in 1990, and according to Merriam-Webster, its origin is a Monty Python’s Flying Circus skit (!) featuring a cafe that only sold Spam.
9. There are no reliable estimates of the amount of spam sent daily.
Because definitions of spam differ, estimates of daily spam volumes range widely. Some sources peg it at 50% of all email, while others say it’s more like 90%.
10. Canada has the world’s strictest anti-spam law.
The CAN-SPAM law, enacted in 2014, requires businesses to receive opt-in consent from individuals before sending them electronic marketing messages. Businesses that fail to comply could be hit with a penalty of C$10 million — per violation.
Photo by Skyler Sawyer on Unsplash.