How is email delivered?

  • In both cases, whether the message is created by an email client or by an automated system, it is specially formatted to be transmitted over the Internet using a standard called “Simple Mail Transfer Protocol” (SMTP).
  • The sender’s mail server (technically called a “Mail Transfer Agent,” or MTA) looks up the “” portion of the recipient’s email address in a Domain Name System (DNS) server to determine which destination mail server (referred to as a “Mail Exchanger,” or MX) it should contact to deliver the message.
  • The sending and receiving servers communicate using the SMTP protocol. The receiving server accepts the message so that it can be delivered to the recipient.
  • The recipient’s email client retrieves the message using standards like the Post Office Protocol (POP) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) to download the message so it can be read.

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