MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) Types For Dummies

Many people use the internet to send all kinds of data but do not know what makes it possible for them to achieve that. Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions is a technique that has seen the evolution of the use of the internet to send electronic mails. MIME encoding makes it possible for you to send attachments of any kind, something that was not possible before. MIME is a way of ensuring there is a standardized way for the transmission of electronic mails data through the internet.
Previously, people could only send text messages whose characters were limited to a certain number and other media files such as audio, video and pictures could not be sent. With MIME the benefits you get include sending messages of unlimited length and the text can be written using any of the available character sets. Data being sent is not limited to the US-ASCII character sets and the line length is not defined to a specific number of characters.
You can also attach images, audio and video files to the messages you want to send. This means that you can transmit still images, voice data and moving images over the internet. These data can also be in any layout you want, font and color. With the necessary software and hardware, you can listen to audio messages received and view video images. Other applications such as files with computer programs can be sent too.
When you send multiple attachments with an electronic message, this is made possible by MIME. MIME uses five encoding formats to ensure all types of binary data are sent. They include 7bit, 8bit, quoted-printable, base64 and binary. The good thing with MIME is that it can also use other encoding formats since it is very flexible. It can use uuencode too to convert binary data that is in 7 bit to 8 bit so that is human readable for easy understanding.
MIME types enable the web browser to know how the particular content a user is trying to send will be transmitted. Content types have been growing in number and it is up to the web administrator to add them to the server’s configuration so that data supporting the content type will be sent easily. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has the authority to assign the MIME content types, subtypes, character sets and access types. People with new media types are allowed to register them with the IANA to be included in the list of MIME types.  
All MIME types have their own type of files they support and the associated extensions for the file. For instance, Microsoft Word document files have the extension ‘doc’ while GIF image files have the extension ‘man’. A MIME type such as mime application/pdf is for Adobe PDF documents while text/html is used for normal web pages and mime application/xhtml xml is used for XHTML (HTML as XML).
Sometimes you may send data with incorrect MIME type which the web server should report back to the web administrator as an error. The web browsers are not supposed to know how you intended to send the data but sometimes they guess the MIME type and transmit the data. This leads to messages being received in a way not intended such as wrong formats. It is important to check that the MIME type you have specified for your content is the correct one.
MIME is flexible and it has been left open due to changes in MIME types and future extensions can be added. It is also compatible with the previous standards such as RFC 821 and RFC 822 restrictions hence it does not create any problems for users.

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