MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions)

Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) is an Internet standard that extends the format of email to support:

  • Text in character sets other than ASCII
  • Non-text attachments
  • Message bodies with multiple parts
  • Header information in non-ASCII character sets

Although MIME was designed mainly for SMTP protocol, its use today has grown beyond describing the content of email and now often includes descriptions of content type in general, including for the web (see Internet media type) and as a storage for rich content in some commercial products (e.g., IBM Lotus Domino and IBM Lotus Quickr).

Virtually all human-written Internet email and a fairly large proportion of automated email is transmitted via SMTP in MIME format. Internet email is so closely associated with the SMTP and MIME standards that it is sometimes called SMTP/MIME email.

The content types defined by MIME standards are also of importance outside of email, such as in communication protocols like HTTP for the World Wide Web. HTTP requires that data be transmitted in the context of email-like messages, although the data most often is not actually email.

MIME is specified in six linked RFC memoranda: RFC 2045, RFC 2046, RFC 2047, RFC 4288, RFC 4289 and RFC 2049, which together define the specifications.

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