When Internet email goes wrong, the end user is generally presented with a message of varying clarity describing the problem, typically from an entity such as “mailer daemon”, which will likely include some or all of the original message. Before 1995, this is the best that could be expected, as Internet mail evolved without a standardized approach for handling errors. There is a standard approach for handling errors (Delivery Status Notifications or DSN) which defines a format for DSNs. An email client should be able to use this, to present errors to the user in a clean and consistent manner in the context of the original message.
In practice, this does not happen, and it is the end user who suffers. Something should be done about this. The standards writers have done their part. Two groups should be directly addressing the problem:
- Server developers should implement this specification correctly. There is no reason to do anything else
- Client developers should recognize correctly formatted DSNs, and present them cleanly to the end user.
Those procuring and deploying systems would also do well to pay attention to this feature.