How Does Mail Routing Work?

The process of directing a message to the recipient’s host is called routing. Apart from finding a path from the sending site to the destination, it involves error checking and may involve speed and cost optimization.

There is a big difference between the way a UUCP site handles routing and the way an Internet site does. On the Internet, the main job of directing data to the recipient host (once it is known by its IP address) is done by the IP networking layer, while in the UUCP zone, the route has to be supplied by the user or generated by the mail transfer agent.

Mail Routing on the Internet

On the Internet, the destination host’s configuration determines whether any specific mail routing is performed. The default is to deliver the message to the destination by first determining what host the message should be sent to and then delivering it directly to that host. Most Internet sites want to direct all inbound mail to a highly available mail server that is capable of handling all this traffic and have it distribute the mail locally. To announce this service, the site publishes a so-called MX record for its local domain in its DNS database. MX stands for Mail Exchanger and basically states that the server host is willing to act as a mail forwarder for all mail addresses in the domain. MX records can also be used to handle traffic for hosts that are not connected to the Internet themselves, like UUCP networks or FidoNet hosts that must have their mail ...

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