Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(August 1996)

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Subject: Reply from Compuserve
From: james @ sagarmatha . com (James C. Armstrong)
Date: Sun, 4 Aug 1996 11:44:26 -0700 (PDT)
To: list-managers @ greatcircle . com
Cc: 100272 . 3541 @ compuserve . com

A while back, I mentioned that I was forced to move Compuserve
subscribers on my mailing lists to digest format because of Compuserve's
lack of adherence to accepted Internet standards.  Although this did
upset several of my subscribers, I felt it was a necessary thing
to do (as have several other list managers here).

My complaints to Compuserve had gone unanswered.  One of my subscribers
took it upon himself to make an inquery on his own.  (I've asked him if
he still has the original of his query.)  I sent him a short writeup
of my view of the problem, which I will repeat here:

:> Basically, the problem is that Compuserve and Wow mis-use the return
:> addressing information that accompanies an email message.  Each
:> messgae has several addresses:
:> From	Used as an envelope address, error messages should be sent here.
:> From:	The address of the original sender.  Used for content-based
:> 	replies, unless Reply-To: is set.
:> Reply-To:	The address for content-based replies.
:> Sender:	Used as a reference if mail is forwarded.
:> When someone sends a message to a mailing list, it should have the
:> header changed as follows:
:> From gets set to the mailing list administrative address.
:> From: is unchanged.
:> Reply-To: is set to the address of the mailing list.
:> Sender: is changed to the administrative address.
:> When a message encounters a problem, the error message should be sent
:> to the From or Sender: addresses, these are administrative messages.
:> Instead, Compuserve (and wow, which is owned by Compuserve) uses the
:> Reply-To: address.
:> Fortunately, I've configured the mailing lists so that only members of
:> the lists can post.  This means that the error messages are rejected,
:> but they then fill my mailbox.
:> If the list were configured so that anyone could post, you then have
:> the classical mail-bomb situation.  If a message is posted, and a
:> compuserve address has a problem, it sends a message to the list,
:> which is then forwarded to everybody, including the problem address.
:> This error message then generates another error message, and so on.
:> If more than one address has a problem, this then explodes
:> geometrically, eventually filling everybody's mailboxes with
:> Compuserve error messages.
:> Several mailing list administrators have taken to either excluding
:> subscribers from compuserve, or moving them to digests only.  I've
:> taken the latter step, although I don't like it.

Gordon Lamb received an answer from a CompuServe administrator recently,
that he forwarded to me today.  In it, the administrator indicates that
it is Compuserve's policy to discourage Compuserve members from
joining Internet mailing lists, furthermore, even though their 
software is causing a tremendous annoyance to Internet mailing list
administrators throughout the globe, they have absolutely no intention
of changing their software.

I enclose a copy of their response:

According to unnamed sources, Gordon Lamb is alleged to have written
=> Subj:  WinCIM Internal Editor		Section: CompuServe Software
=> From:  Bob Parsons [Sysop], 111111,2433	#24056
=>   To:  Gordon Lamb, 100272,3541		01 August 1996 11:52:17
=> Hi Gordon,
=> We do not encourage mailing lists I am afraid as they tend to encourage junk
=> mail and therefore we have no plans to make changes to our system in the way you
=> mention.
=> Sorry!
=> Regards,
=> Bob

Gordon has informed me that he is looking to change ISP's as a result
of this.

I intend to invoke a permanent ban on compuserve subscriptions within
the next month (to allow those subscribers to change ISPs).  I also
intend to publish this response in the newsgroups.
Finally, as a member of a mailing list associated with Internet journalism,
I intend to forward a copy of this to that list, should any of those
journalists be interested in this story.

If any other list administrators are equally so inclined, please
drop me a note, and I'll add your support to my efforts.
James C. Armstrong, Jr.      | It's time to taste what you most fear
james @
 sagarmatha .
 com (home)  | Right Guard will not help you here.
                             | Brace yourself, my dear!
                             | It's a holiday in Cambodia!

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