Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(July 1993)

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Subject: Re: Consistent MLM syntax
From: "Michael H. Morse" <mmorse @ z . nsf . gov>
Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1993 08:11:54 EDT
To: "F. Scott Ophof" <Ophof @ cs . uwindsor . ca>, List-Managers @ GreatCircle . COM
In-reply-to: "F. Scott Ophof" <Ophof@CS.UWindsor.Ca> "Re: Consistent MLM syntax" (Jul 28, 3:27am)

> I agree that having smart back-ends will be necessary for a *very*
> long time to come, probably forever.  I do feel however that putting
> effort in smart front-ends is becoming a viable concept.
> Take Gopher for instance.  The "smarts" are clearly in the front
> end, in the sense that it doesn't really matter how smart the server
> is.  It's the client which determines how a user sees it.

Ideally, you would have a client-server implementation such as Gopher
to handle user interaction with the list processor software.  Then,
each user would learn just one client implementation, sites would teach
their own users, and provide support for their own users, and list
managers would only have to run a simple server program.  

The problem is that this isn't going to happen for a while.  First, all
the MLM authors would have to agree on a protocol, and agreed to
implement a server.  Then, folks would have to write and install
clients on a myriad of operating systems.  But even if all this
happened (which it won't), there would still be millions (?) of users
who couldn't access the servers simply because they are not on TCP/IP
networks.  You've got BITNET users, plus all the commercial systems
such as compuserve and MCI.

IMHO, the main reason the consensus won't be reached is the security
issues are unsolvable at this time.  A totally open system is possible
(anyone can add or remove any address from any list), but a secure
system (such as Tasos') requires that each user have a password for
their "list-account".  I believe that this would be a nightmare for
list managers, since it's unlikely that large numbers of users would
remember their passwords for a system they might only use once a year
or so.

> Mm.. Can mailing list servers be approached by Gopher clients?  
> If not, could it be made possible?

I'm pretty sure it is possible, but a bit kludgy.  Gopher wasn't
really designed for this.  But the protocol is simple, and servers
could be easily written.  One big stumbling block is that current
Gopher servers do not receive a username, just the host name, so users
would have to enter their e-mail address manually, which is beyond the
capability of many e-mail users.  Also, you have the security issues
mentioned above.


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