[Dovecot] Can we know when a user read our email?

Ed W lists at wildgooses.com
Mon Jun 4 16:49:08 EEST 2012

On 03/06/2012 18:26, Reindl Harald wrote:
> Am 03.06.2012 19:21, schrieb Michael Orlitzky:
>> On 06/03/12 12:06, Robert Schetterer wrote:
>>> Am 03.06.2012 16:24, schrieb Michael Orlitzky:
>>>> I for one think the plugin is a good idea.
>>> what the hell , should the plugin do and how ?
>>> there is smtp dsn, nothing more makes sense
>>> looking to the thread subject , you need to have new internet standard
>>> called
>>> "braindump over tcp"
>>> this doesnt exist on exchange too
>>> mail is smtp, dovecot is no smtp server
>> You could trigger on the 'seen' flag, and Dovecot is more than capable
>> of generating messages, especially to mailboxes under its control (see:
>> sieve)
> and now tell us how you "connect" YOUR sent message over SMTP
> to any seen fleeg of another user?

I think we are talking cross purposes about the design here

In my case I have a customer base on *dialup* who connect very 
infrequently.  They kind of want MDN to work, however, at least my 
understanding is that this is typically implemented by first the MUA 
downloading all messages, then generating MDN responses which need to be 
sent out - however, in the case of dialup this may be very far after the 

Therefore they request a kind of server side MDN.  So when the message 
is downloaded from the POP server, the POP server generates some form of 
MDN-a-like response on their behalf.  There are clearly limitations 
here, but equally the limitations are quite clearly explained - all we 
learn is that the message was downloaded, but in the case of very 
infrequent dialup users, this at least teaches us the earliest time that 
the user could have read the message.  Many of these users are corporate 
and have defined processes, so they may require the user to actually 
read and action all the emails which have been downloaded, hence it 
might be inferred that usually the message will be read soon after we 
learn it's downloaded - I don't think the goal is to get 100% knowledge 
of read time though, just an estimate and that it did actually arrive at 
this remote user is helpful

To put some meat on this type of user, we are talking about a group of 
users who might be mid-ocean or perhaps hanging around north/south pole 
or somewhere similarly remote.  They would be using satellite dialup 
devices which have significant costs.  So for example if we see the user 
dial in we learn:
- They aren't dead...
- With some confidence that the message has crossed the most uncertain 
part of the link and is at least now close enough to the user we just 
need to hope they actually read it
- This type of user is typically only receiving a small handful of 
messages. At 2.4Kbit you are struggling to receive emails, it's not 
assume that this type of user is getting the kind of volumes that you or 
I get

This is a niche user, however, I think the basic feature is actually not 
entirely stupid.  My competitors implement this feature quite crudely 
with just a generic message mailed out to the sender the first time the 
recipient (ie on our server) accesses and downloads and accesses the 
email.  I don't see anyone trying to send MDN compatible receipts, they 
literally just send a "Your message was downloaded by the recipient" message


Ed W

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