Nasir Nasir - 1 month ago 16
HTTP Question

Does IMAP protocol support binary inside multi-part body?

IMAP RFC:


8-bit textual and binary mail is supported through the use of a

[MIME-IMB] content transfer encoding. IMAP4rev1 implementations MAY

transmit 8-bit or multi-octet characters in literals, but SHOULD do

so only when the [CHARSET] is identified.

Although a BINARY body encoding is defined, unencoded binary
strings are not permitted. A "binary string" is any string with
NUL characters. Implementations MUST encode binary data into a
textual form, such as BASE64, before transmitting the data. A
string with an excessive amount of CTL characters MAY also be
considered to be binary.



  1. If implementation has to convert to base64, why RFC is saying "BINARY body encoding is defined". Since every time we need to send the data as base64 (or some other format) effectively binary is not supported. Or am i reading some thing wrong?

  2. IMAP supports MIME multi-part, can the parts inside this have binary data? that is content-transfer-encoding?



I am new to IMAP/HTTP, reason for asking this question is, i have to develop a server which supports both HTTP and IMAP, in HTTP server recive the data in binary (HUGE multipart data, with content-transfer-encoding as binary), FETCH can be done in IMAP. Problem is i need to parse the data and convert each parts inside multipart to base64 if IMAP doesnt support binary. Which i think is severe performance issue.

Max Max
Answer

The answer is unfortunately "maybe".

The MIME RFC supports binary, but the IMAP RFC specifically disallows sending NULL characters. This is likely because they can be confusing for text based parsers, especially those written in C, where NULL has the meaning of End of String.

Some IMAP servers just consider the body to be a "bag of bytes" and I doubt few, if any, actually do re-encoding. So if you ask for the entire message, you will probably get the literal content of it.

If your clients can handle MIME-Binary, you will probably be fine.

There is RFC 3516 for an IMAP extension to support BINARY properly, but this is not widely deployed.

As a side note: why are you using Multipart MIME? That is an odd implementation choice for HTTP.