15. History - Long-form Addresses

The original 1992 scheme provided for email addresses of the formfirstname.lastname@unit.oxford.ac.uk where unit was a name chosen by the department or college. There was always a long form of a department or college name, used with .oxford.ac.uk. There would usually be an additional short form, used with .ox.ac.uk. The domain components ox and oxford were not automatically interchangeable.

For example, Mary Brown could have four addresses:

mary.brown@food-studies.oxford.ac.uk      (long form)
mary.brown@food.ox.ac.uk                  (short form)
mary.brown@enstone.oxford.ac.uk           (long form)
mary.brown@enstone.ox.ac.uk               (short form)

Email was still at a pioneering stage in those days and was not used with anything like the present-day frequency. The original idea was that the long form could be guessed easily because of its similarity to the full department or college name, and the short form (if any) was just a convenient shorthand for speed of typing.

When email became commonplace, there was a general move in the outside world, and for new units within Oxford, to use shorter and shorter domain names. Newcomers to the University were surprised and possibly confused at being issued two or four variants of their email address. In Autumn 2004, plans were announced to withdraw the long-form addresses over the lifetime of the next student intake, finally finishing in December 2008, and to make the short form standard across the University.

Other historical changes are the introduction of junk-mail and virus management, and changes in the response to invalid names in incoming email. An unrecognised name will now simply be referred to the contact page (which has an "approximate match" feature). In the past we offered likely lists of similar names; unfortunately the lists were used to generate junk mail address lists and we had to withdraw both this facility and the option to look up partial names on the contact page which started to be used for the same purpose.

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