Forwarding emails to your phone patents
August 28, 2007 7:41 PM   Subscribe

ISP, OpenSource options that can forward emails to your phone/alternate-address, so that when you reply, the replies are sent from your email address (and not from your phone's email address), and threats of patenting said idea.

Friend Bob sends email to Fred
ISP receives mail, forwards it to Fred's Phone.
Fred reads email on phone, and just hits reply to send a reply email.
ISP receives reply, and forwards it to Bob, re-writing the From address from Fred's phone address, to Fred's address.

To me, this is nothing special. I could see several ways to develop this,
1: with a 12345@isp.address encoding, where "12345" is mapped to original From. Means you have to store it somewhere, and for how long?
2: Encode the original from, (plain, or something more compact like bas64) BaSe64MsGAddREs@isp.address. But, email has a max (64?) so whatever you encode, PLUS your domain might be an issue.
3: Add an X-OrgMail: header line. Will all phones keep X-Header entries?
4: Encode the original email in domain: and has *.isp.address MX point to MX server. Since domain max length is greater than username, it should always fit.

So, this company is trying to sell us this service, I consider is simple/banal to the point that I would not ask for more money for the feature. But they claim to be going through the patent process for it so we should not even try to have this feature (although, we already do, but not using #4). I believe they are to use method #4.

I could imagine there are a huge amount of ISPs with this feature already in existence., maybe even using #4 as the method. There could even be OpenSource software that does it. Does anyone know of any? If I can show it is really an old-hat, then there should be no need to fear their threats of "patent pending". With all the crazy patents approved these days, one can not feel confident that trivial "ideas" like this don't get approved.
posted by lundman to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Microsoft Exchange + Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) already does this. If there is patentable IP here, Microsoft and RIM already own it.

There may be a single discrete open source package that does this, but you could roll your own with your favorite mailer, some MySQL and Ruby/Perl glue.

Regarding the banality - if you know how to do this sort of thing, then it is very easy. The question isn't whether a product like this is banal, but whether you can monetize it. There are plenty of verticals in which an application like this could earn a developer and sales team a tidy annual profit.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:26 PM on August 28, 2007

Gmail can do this. I don't know about its mobile interface, but I have my work email forwarded to gmail, and I can reply "from" my work address. It's transparent unless you read the full message headers.

See also slightly related post on slashdot.
posted by rachelpapers at 8:26 PM on August 28, 2007

Spamgourmet uses option 2 (if I'm reading your options right). Note that they put (the unique part of) the e-mail address you want it to come FROM plus the address (full address) that you want it to go TO as the "reply to" address for each message. (Once you enable it, of course.) I'm not sure when they implemented it, but they've been around in general since 2000. It is open source, you can get it here.
posted by anaelith at 8:30 PM on August 28, 2007
posted by lundman at 8:46 PM on September 2, 2007

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