Re: BITNET (was: UTF-8 in Netscape)

From: Markus G. Kuhn (
Date: Fri Jul 18 1997 - 15:13:45 EDT

Does anyone have any clue about what "market share" the BITNET has today?
I doubt that is is even measureable.

I moved from BITNET to the Internet in 1989, that is almost a decade
ago, and at all places that I have worked so far, BITNET links had
been fully replaced with Internet links many years ago. After all,
BITNET is an e-mail only system, it has noting like the Web and is
therefore not even a 1/100th as sexy as the Internet. The BITNET should
definitely not be of concern for an Internet software manufacturer like
Netscape. BITNET suffers from exponential decay while the Internet suffers
from exponential growth, and I had assumed BITNET is already de-facto
dead today (along with some other EBCDIC based 1970s e-mail systems most
of you probably have never even heard of before). Even the old LISTSERVs
now run under Unix.

The only alternative e-mail distribution systems to (E)SMTP in use today are
UUCP (has always been 8-bit transparent) and X.400 (has its complete
own family of attachements and multimedia encodings based on ASN.1/BER,
therefore MIME is useless in an X.400 systems and the gateways always
have to handle MIME and any additional encoding like UTF-8 just makes work
slightly worse for X.400 gateway authors). X.400 by the way used
the ITU-T T.61 teletex character set where characters like {} where
missing and which has only combining characters and no precomposed accented
letters. But I think it has already been extended by Unicode message
body types (who knows details?).

I think I am pretty much an e-mail power user, and I didn't have to deal
with BITNET hosts in a *very* long time. I just searched 3 megabytes
of archived incoming and outgoing mail, and the string "bitnet" never
even showed up until this protocol archaeology discussion started.

Therefore, I claim that this discussion is somewhat academic. As I said
before, any experience or statistic with 8-bit e-mail transparency that
is more then 12 months old is completely obsolete today.


Markus G. Kuhn, Computer Science grad student, Purdue
University, Indiana, USA -- email:

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