It's 2020, which SMTP MTA to use?

Reasoning in the comments, boosts appreciated!

Maybe I should specify some requirements - needs to be able to hook in to modern anti-spam systems (SPF, DMARC, etc) ideally out of the box, support submission as well as delivery, support LDAP for auth, virtual hosting, have good support modern SMTP extensions like UTF8 and MTA-STS, be well supported by common NOC systems, etc, etc.

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@bortzmeyer @mjog

postfix just seems to have the sweet spot for 'can find search results to help configure it' mindshare while not entirely being impenetrable legacy cruft?

@saper @bortzmeyer @mjog

I want to be careful not to overstate how much I understand any of it.

@deejoe @bortzmeyer @mjog side node: Eric Allman told once a story of his conversations with Wietse Venema, who examined sendmail in details while preparing for his own MTA. When asked once about the progress of Postfix, Wietse responded "It's a great lesson of humility".

("Lessons learned from Sendmail", EuroBSDCon 2019)

@deejoe This is my impression of Postfix as well - the least terrible option. :)

@bortzmeyer I guess I'm looking for features other than security-by-obscurity. ;)


Depends--application, scale, volume, special processing, security, integrated systems such as trac, RT?

You could also consider smail, qmail.

@hhardy01 Low volume hosting for a small community. Needs anti-spam integration. Will be using Postfix for IMAP and Nextcloud for webmail/contacts/calendar. Ideally low or zero maintenance.

Searching for smail produces 0 useful results and qmail was written by a dickhead, so both are out. :(


Bernstein is a dickhead? Howso?

Generally speaking it sounds like postfix could be a good choice.

Exim is the default MTA for Debian. I've never had reason to move away from Exim, and after all these years there is a very strong memory muscle element.

@fitheach Well, when I first established this service, Sendmail was the gold standard, so I've kept using that for literally decades. Now it seems like Exim is the new Sendmail however, so I feel like I may as well jump ahead and go with Postfix, tbh.

In common with most distros, I think, Debian used to default to Sendmail, but that was before Potato when I jumped on-board. I've done a couple of installs of Postfix to satisfy my curiosity. Both installs are still working effectively, I have no complaints. However, Postfix didn't provide me with any killer features. I'm not saying Exim is better, it is just that *I* know it better.

@fitheach @mjog The only reason I use Exim is because when I searched for how to set up email on debian about eight years ago the instructions for exim were more comprehensible than postfix. I didn't change that decision because the grass doesn't look any greener on the other side. Email server configuration seems overly complicated no matter which system you go with.

@bob @fitheach Yup, stick with the devil you know is definitely good advice with MTAs.

All the alternatives seem equally incomprehensible at first!
Once you get one of them to work, you stick with it. Makes sense.
@fitheach @mjog

The default Debian configuration for Exim(3|4) pretty much worked straight out of the box, unless you had some unusual requirements. If you all you wanted was an MTA to deal with your own domain, the config just worked. Debian's use of split config files did confuse matters though, as standard Exim used a monolithic file. Recent Debians have changed this policy.

The Debian specific Exim mailing list also provided good support.


Postfix guy myself. I was just making kind of a general comment. Obviously, they all work if configured correctly.
@bob @mjog

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