If you're one of the many lucky readers of SitePoint's email newsletters who use Outlook 2007—whether by choice or not—then chances are you've noticed this newsletter and many others haven't looked quite right since the upgrade from Outlook 2003. Could the solution be standards for HTML email?
Long time readers of the Tech Times may remember my rant in Tech Times #156 about Microsoft's choice to replace the Internet Explorer rendering engine in Outlook 2003 with a new engine based on Microsoft Word in Outlook 2007. Yes, that Microsoft Word. Clippy is reading your email as we speak.
The fine folks at [Freshview, the makers of the [URL="http://campaignmonitor.com/"]Campaign Monitor](http://www.freshview.com/) service for creating and sending high-quality HTML email newsletters, have led the ongoing efforts to get Microsoft to see reason and reverse this move, which frankly sets email technology back a decade.
As it seems these pleas continue to fall on deaf ears, Freshview has proposed a new tack: define a (relatively) easy-to-support subset of HTML and CSS as a standard that HTML-capable email clients may strive to support. By setting a more achievable goal than the full HTML/CSS support we expect of web browsers, the theory goes, we may be able to drum up some interest in improving the HTML email landscape from vendors like Microsoft.
This plan is outlined in [a very thoughtful post on the Campaign Monitor Blog, which has since been followed up by [URL="http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/archives/2007/09/help_us_form_a_baseline_for_st.html"]an initial proposal for the baseline standard](http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/archives/2007/09/why_we_need_web_standards_supp_1.html).
Do you believe creating a new standard for HTML email will help improve the sorry state of standards support and interoperability in email clients?
There is already an HTML standard. There is no reason for another one. What is needed is for email programs to start supporting the HTML 4 strict standard that already exists.
Of course there's no reason why there can't be a MS Word standard for emails in addition to the HTML one and then emails can be sent as multipart/alternate with the email program picking up whichever of the two it supports.
I remember when there was no such thing as a USB plug. Each piece of equipment you wanted to use with your computer had its own type of plug. Nothing was standardized.
When standardization happened - with not only plugs for peripherals, but with file formats as well - things got better and easier.
However HTML email standardization happens, it NEEDS to happen. Email is not going away, at least for a while. So, hop on the bus and standardize it.
Yes but not from Microsoft who give the appearance that the think that they are big enough to ignore standards set by anyone else and to define their own instead.
Yes but the banner needs to be carried by someone that everyone else would be ashamed to not follow behind. I don't think Freshview qualifies.
I agree with felgall that Microsoft should be eliminated from sch effort. They're already against it.
Because frshview are not considered as leaders or 'big guys' like Mozilla for instance
So what are we talking about here??...
An e-mailML ??... a mark-up language specifically for multipart e-mails??
What we are suffering yet is too many standards, too big, too imprecise. What David Greiner is [calling for and [URL="http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/archives/2007/09/help_us_form_a_baseline_for_st.html"]proposing](http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/archives/2007/09/why_we_need_web_standards_supp_1.html) is essentially adding another one. I think such effort is inappropriate and doomed.
In addition, David Greiner's view is somewhat outdated and narrow-minded. He is trying e.g. to engrave in marble a habit (the double-format in sending email messages, Plain Text and HTML) that is a costly transitional way and is near from its natural end (just an example).
Versailles, Sat 29 Sep 2007 08:08:50 +0200
the problem with "eliminating" microsoft from the process is that microsoft has such an ASTRONOMICAL installed user base that will keep upgrading to the newest product that unless you get them on board (or force them in to submission) then the movement will die.
the only way i see an improvement is if enough large corporations say "no" and threaten to not upgrade or switch to a different product.
I think like longneck that excluding MS is not really an option. In addition, 80% of ~1B PC users (i.e. 800,000,000 users) are supporting MS' choices with their feet and wallets; OTOH, probably less than 1M are supporting W3C and other "official" bodies' choices with their talks and rants ; inbetween, ~200M mozilla users are in facts supporting none (even if they are said by others to support one side or another). Which ones should be followed in democracies?
Versailles, Sat 29 Sep 2007 15:57:30 +0200
I believe there exists a much larger issue with HTML email that could be resolved by another standard.
Many companies (my own included) as well as all US government systems have removed HTML email as an option. They feel it is too great a security risk and have limited all email systems to text only submissions. This relegates all HTML newsletters and HTML formatted email to the realm of unreadable gibberish.
If a standard for formatted HTML emails could be developed that eliminated most if not all the percieved security risks, many of us could enjoy the SitePoint newsletters again. Thanks for having the online archive available.
The fatwa against HTML seems IMO fading away; even the forum ayatollahs have ceased to lynch HTML posters (incidentally you are here reading and posting on a forum that has handled all posts in HTML for a long time now). Security risks are more accurately appraised and more efficiently handled. So that fear of HTML has vanished from individuals; the flower seller at your corner has probably written her email in HTML for about a decade now. Sure in big organizations any evolution or adaptation takes longer - the longest being of course the heaviest, i.e. governments. But I do think that most people now have cleared the case "Read all messages in plain text" in their OE (or whatever equivalent in their own email client).
Versailles, Mon 1 Oct 2007 15:54:35 +0200
It is not a matter of these organizations adopting HTML email. They allowed HTML email until two months ago when filtering software was added to convert HTML formatted email into text only messages.
So sad it's true..
Ah, that would be a big disappointment then, as the large corporations are fonder of Microsoft than the folks at Channel 9
Personally, I prefer not to receive html email, and if it is required, I would prefer to visit a webpage where I can get more information.
For those of us who design and code HTML e-mails, such a standard would be very nice to have. I'm getting rather annoyed with spending an hour coding an e-mail, then spending the next ten hours testing it to make sure it looks ok in every client possible (and I'm sure I still miss a lot of them).
Yes, and No.
A new standard would be useful, in the long term, IF it was ever adopted, assuming that it was written in a way that removed all of the current issues.
However, I think that a lot of people are missing the point of the main problem that initiated this discussion: MS would prefer to use its Office technologies for eMail than the IE base. I suspect it will be easier to persuade them to reverse that decision than it would be to introduce a new base rendering engine into Office, at a time when they are concentrating on Silverlight or whatever it's called.
I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what would possess microsoft to make such a drastic change to there software. They've also only changed Outlook 2007. The Windows Mail (formerly Outlook Express) still uses IE rendering engine, correct? Why change one and not the other?
If anything they should have changed Microsoft Word to use the IE rendering engine and left Outlook 2007 alone. That would have accomplished the same thing (I think it was microsofts way of getting there programs to communicate better, but in the process they have screwed us web developers.)
BTW, I consider myself a web developer not a data entry expert so why would I want anything I make to look like something out of Word. I hate word.
I wish OpenOffice had a free email client.
Unfortunately, Microsoft is big enough to dictate how things can work.
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