What is MIME?

What is MIME?

MIME is an acronym for Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions. It is a standard first defined in 1992 to extend the capabilities of Internet e-mail beyond plain ASCII text. Before MIME, there was no straightforward and reliable way to transmit any material other than plain US-ASCII text using standard Internet mail protocols such as SMTP.

The MIME standard includes:

  • specifications for character sets other than US-ASCII
  • a defined set of content types (such as image, audio, and application types)
  • a way to encapsulate several different objects (such as attachments) within a single message
  • standard encoding methods such as base64 and quoted-printable
  • extended mail headers for specifying character sets, content types, message parts, and encoding

Although MIME was originally designed for e-mail, Web browsers also use MIME content types to identify multimedia files so they can launch the appropriate plug-ins for retrieving audio, video, or other non-HTML information.

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