Agents

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The RFC documents related to mail use a common set of terms that have similar abbreviations to describe different agents, actors, or services within Internet mail services.

MSA

The Mail Submission Agent is the LMTP service (similar to SMTP) that accepts authenticated new mail messages from end users' MUA. It operates on port 587 and is intended to be the sole entry point for new mail into the mail system. Once new mail is accepted by the MSA, it is passed to the MTA for routing towards its final destination.

MTA

The Mail Transfer Agent is the SMTP service that filters and accepts mail on port 25 from outbound mail services and routes it towards a destination domain's MX for delivery to a mail store and ultimately the end-user mailboxes. Historically, before the advent of junk mail (spam), SMTP port 25 performed the functions of both MSA and MTA, but to help reduce abuse they were split into two distinct services for better management.

MUA

The Mail User Agent is the end user client software used to read and send mail, such as Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook. It can also be web based mail services, such as Gmail, Outlook, or Yahoo.

Mail Store

The Mail Store is the final destination of mail into an end user's mailbox. An MUA will retrieve user mail from the mail store using POP (ports 110 or 995) or IMAP (ports 143 or 993).

References

  • RFC 1939 Post Office Protocol - Version 3
  • RFC 2033 Local Mail Transfer Protocol
  • RFC 3501 Internet Message Access Protocol - Version 4Rev1
  • RFC 5321 Simple Mail Transfer Protocol