Smail seems to be the GNU project's official MTA. Its sole source of Fun is to take E-mail messages and pass them along, either to other relays or perharps to users, depending on destination.

I used smail for some time (now I use PostFix); it is not as flexible as Sendmail, but at least it was reasonably easy to configure (with Debian's configurators), and it did fine in smart host/dial-up use. I'm not sure how it compares to other MTAs in "heavy use".

Smail used to be Debian's default MTA, but 2.2 uses Exim.

Smail's biggest advantage over sendmail and other MTA's is its human readable config files. Smail tried to integrate everything useful into its functionality, so that you didn't need to compose the perfect config file to get it to do what you want. You could use a very simple config file, or just use the default compiled in stuff and it would work fine. Thus, it wasn't necessary for it to be as flexible as sendmail.

However, smail is, as far as I can determine, totally obsolete and unmaintained. (I used it for many years and liked it, and still use it at home, at least until I upgrade.) There are critical patches for it that have been floating around for it for more than two years and have not been integrated at all. smail is vulnerable to several relaying attacks, and thus is not suitable for use on internet.

Exim appears to have a complete superset of smail's functionality (except uucp routing), a similar config file format, and even shares some of the same authors.

Since even in the uucp community, nobody uses bang paths anymore (they use internet format addresses), I think it is safe to say that Exim has totally superseded smail.


Update: Will wonders never cease! It appears that on July 20, 2001, a new release of smail came out that probably fixes the security problems in smail. Their release announcement also acknowleges exim, along with several other MTA's, and actually sort of recommends them over smail..

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