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Nathaniel (nsb)
Borenstein, Ph.D.


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I'm a scientist/programmer/inventor/entrepreneur who has been involved in Internet-related innovations since 1980, specializing in e-mail technology, human-computer interaction, and electronic commerce. Journalists have called me an "Internet Guru" and "a geek's geek," among other things. I have largely focused, in my career, on taking new innovations and driving them, collaboratively, to become successful products.

I specialize in building consensus in diverse groups, and I enjoy translating between different perspectives, particularly between software development and business strategy.

Since June 2010 I have been working as Chief Scientist for Mimecast. Previously (2002-2010) I was a Distinguished Engineer for IBM's Lotus Division. In the fall of 2021 I reduced my role at Mimecast to half-time, and am resuming a role on the faculty of the School of Information at the University of Michigan.

I occasionally write on my blog.

Things I'm Known For

  • My standards work. Among other things, I'm co-creator of MIME, the Internet standard multimedia data format, now used trillions of times each day. My old barbershop quartet is featured in the first-ever MIME message. Nowadays I'm interested in standardizing dynamic messaging.

  • My entrepreneurial ventures. I co-founded First Virtual Holdings, the first Internet payment company, in 1994, which became MessageMedia and was ultimately swallowed up by Doubleclick when the Internet bubble burst, NetPOS.com, the first Internet-centric point-of-sale system, in 2000, and AmplifEye in 2014. Although people often assume I founded the company because of its name, I actually didn't join Mimecast until it was several years old.

  • My software projects (notably metamail, Safe-Tcl, and the Andrew Message System), which have been used by millions.

    See my 1991 Girl Scout cookie message here, an early demonstration of "dynamic email."

    See a video about ACRONYM, the help system I built for my 1985 thesis here.

    See an early overview video of the Andrew System here.

  • My writings, which include three books, and numerous journal articles and 16 Internet RFC documents.

    See my 1989 article that won the NYU Olive Branch award for writing about peace.

    Read Programming As If People Mattered, now notable primarily for the incredibly dated examples.

  • My 21 patents

  • My social activism.
  • Things I Hope to Be Known For Some Day

    Immodestly, I think some of the most important things I've done are less well known. A few of my sins of pride:

  • In 1992, I applied for a patent on what is now known as "dynamic email". Bellcore, my employer, decided not to pursue the application because it was deemed to be of little commercial potential, and thus not worth the bother to differentiate from two pieces of prior art (John Vittal and John Hogg). That was a smart commercial decision, because the patent would have expired in 2012, six years before Google launched AMP for Email, the first thing that could have seriously infringed on it. As of 2021, Dynamic Email is widely seen as the "next big thing" in the email world.

  • In 2013, I applied for a patent on "Sharing Artifacts in Permission-Protected Archives." This time my employer, Mimecast, persisted, and the patent was allowed in 2021. I believe some day organizations will be made much more efficient by methods like these, but I rather doubt that I will live to see it happen.

  • My forthcoming book on how the Internet affects the human spiritual journey. The most recent draft was titled "Virtual Values: The Internet Challenge to the Human Spirit" but that will likely change.

  • My amazing children and grandchildren.
  • What Else Might You Want To Know?

  • Questions that people used to ask me

  • My life in academia

  • My relatively traditional CV

  • Other stuff I've done

  • My own pithiest quotes in circulation.

  • For over 40 years, I've been collecting my favorite quotations. You can sample one here (reload to sample another) or see them all here, here, and here.
  • If You Want To Know More Than This, You're A Stalker

    In 2009 I moved from my home in Ann Arbor, Michigan to live more or less full time at Guppy Lake, in northern Michigan.

    My wife Trina and I are empty nesters; our two living daughters, four granddaughters, and grandson live in New York City and Chicago. I have three brothers:

  • Eliot is a hoity toity academic at NYU
  • Seth is an AP journalist periodically attacked by nut jobs.
  • Joe is a contractor/investor in California.
  • My Meyers-Briggs type is very strongly ENFP:

    I am a lifelong sufferer of depressive disorder, but it has been well controlled by medication for decades. I urge anyone who is battling depression to seek help. The right treatment can not only save your life, it can make life better than you can probably imagine.

    Like most of us, I too rarely reflect on how lucky I am in general, and in particular to have had so many remarkable people in my life. Here are a few of the ones I miss most.

    Shana Borenstein, 1982-2020

    Michael Grover, 1982-2021

    Stan Borenstein, 1925-2006

    Debbie Borenstein, 1929-1996

    Sophie Borenstein, 1906-1998