Significant characteristics of email

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These tables are adapted from Significant Properties Testing Report: Email, Gareth Knight, Digital Curation Specialist, InSPECT project, 30 March 2009, Sec. 2.1, Significant properties that must be maintained.

[edit] Agents

name definition function description
Local-part The user account of the Agent assigned by a mail provider. The local-part is identified by alphanumeric characters prior to the @ symbol of an email address. Establishes the provenance (and as a result support or contradict its authenticity) of message by identifying the user account that was used to transmit the message.
Domain-part The host or domain name used by a DNS to indicate the mail provider that handles the email message. Establishes the provenance (and as a result support or contradict its authenticity) of message by identifying the domain from which the message originated.
Domain-literal The IP address of the source or destination domain. Establishes the provenance (and as a result support or contradict its authenticity) of message by identifying the machine address from which the message originated.
Display name (if present) A plain text indication of the Agent's name. Establishes the provenance (and as a result support or contradict its authenticity) of message by identifying the name of the Agent specified for the mail account.
Relationship The relationship that the Agent has with the email message, e.g. creator, sender, recipient (primary, CC, BCC). Establishes the provenance (and as a result support or contradict its authenticity) of message by identifying how each agent relates to the email.


[edit] Transmission

name definition function description
Message-ID A unique identifier created by the domain from which the email originated that is embedded within the email header. The message-id is found in received emails and is not present in local emails. The message-id should be used when attempting to understand the relationship between two or more emails that constitute a thread. It is beneficial when the subject line has changed. However, it has only limited use when handling a single email.
Sent-date The date and time that an email was completed by a Creator and/or transmitted by the Sender, or received by a Recipient. The sent-date is obtained from the system settings of the sender ‘s machine. It may indicate the datetime in which an idea was expressed. However, there is the potential that the datetime has been accidentally or deliberately altered, which may result in the value being untrustworthy.
Received date The date and time that an email was received by the recipient‘s host. Indicates the datetime that an email was received. However, it does not confirm that the email was downloaded or read by a recipient.
Trace-field Indicates the route that the email took to travel from the sender from the recipient and when it occurred. A repeatable value consisting of an optional “Return-Path” field and one or more “Received” fields. The trace fields are external to the control of the sender and recipient and, therefore may be thought more trustworthy than the Sent and Received date for validation.


[edit] Content and structure

name definition function description
Subject A short string that may identify the topic of the message. The subject line may be blank, indicate the content of the email to which the Sender is replying, or contain other information. The Subject may provide qualitative information that indicates the message purpose. Additionally, it may provide a simple method to sort several emails into a thread when used in conjunction with the received date.
Keywords (if present) Words and phrases that may summarise the content of the message. Keywords may be created by the person or software application that creates, receives the message, or archives the message.
Attachments (if present) An identifier that indicates one or more attachments associated with the email.
Message body and associated mark-up Markup may be necessary to preserve, depending on the type and format of the message. For more information, see Significant Properties Testing Report: Email, 2.2.1.5. Message Body.
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