Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions, usually referred to by the much easier to pronounce MIME acronym, is an internet standard that extends the functionality of email to include non-text attachments, multi-part message bodies, and text in character sets other than ASCII. Prior to the adoption of the MIME standard, the process of attaching files was laborious–senders had to manually encode their files using a binary-to-text tool, dump the text into the email body, and then rely on the recipient to reverse the process and manually turn the encoded text back into binary so they could access the file.
Without the structure that MIME superimposes over the email system, it would be impossible to send an email with rich text formatting in the body of the email, an attached picture, and an attached document that recipient is able to easily view and download the attached files.
Even in the case of a plain text email, the MIME structure is still employed, the email client simply sets the content type for the email to text/plain.
- By Jason Fitzpatrick on 03/19/13