HTML for email (was: Re: document writing/editing tools used by IETF)

Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com> Mon, 01 March 2021 05:05 UTC

Return-Path: <moore@network-heretics.com>
X-Original-To: ietf@ietfa.amsl.com
Delivered-To: ietf@ietfa.amsl.com
Received: from localhost (localhost [127.0.0.1]) by ietfa.amsl.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id BC3093A150C for <ietf@ietfa.amsl.com>; Sun, 28 Feb 2021 21:05:55 -0800 (PST)
X-Virus-Scanned: amavisd-new at amsl.com
X-Spam-Flag: NO
X-Spam-Score: -0.018
X-Spam-Level:
X-Spam-Status: No, score=-0.018 tagged_above=-999 required=5 tests=[DKIM_SIGNED=0.1, DKIM_VALID=-0.1, RCVD_IN_MSPIKE_H3=-0.01, RCVD_IN_MSPIKE_WL=-0.01, SPF_NONE=0.001, URIBL_BLOCKED=0.001] autolearn=ham autolearn_force=no
Authentication-Results: ietfa.amsl.com (amavisd-new); dkim=pass (2048-bit key) header.d=messagingengine.com
Received: from mail.ietf.org ([4.31.198.44]) by localhost (ietfa.amsl.com [127.0.0.1]) (amavisd-new, port 10024) with ESMTP id gGYCGucYREl2 for <ietf@ietfa.amsl.com>; Sun, 28 Feb 2021 21:05:53 -0800 (PST)
Received: from wout3-smtp.messagingengine.com (wout3-smtp.messagingengine.com [64.147.123.19]) (using TLSv1.2 with cipher ADH-AES256-GCM-SHA384 (256/256 bits)) (No client certificate requested) by ietfa.amsl.com (Postfix) with ESMTPS id 5B4553A1509 for <ietf@ietf.org>; Sun, 28 Feb 2021 21:05:53 -0800 (PST)
Received: from compute3.internal (compute3.nyi.internal [10.202.2.43]) by mailout.west.internal (Postfix) with ESMTP id 7059B607 for <ietf@ietf.org>; Mon, 1 Mar 2021 00:05:52 -0500 (EST)
Received: from mailfrontend1 ([10.202.2.162]) by compute3.internal (MEProxy); Mon, 01 Mar 2021 00:05:52 -0500
DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed; d= messagingengine.com; h=content-transfer-encoding:content-type :date:from:in-reply-to:message-id:mime-version:references :subject:to:x-me-proxy:x-me-proxy:x-me-sender:x-me-sender :x-sasl-enc; s=fm2; bh=XLyoI32GKUgKm7ycKXSpTA5pVhtN96ajZ4PimqGx8 pI=; b=VGOR+kLcrkD78nhymHNNAESGvqhRb5c0y2LWodMAHdZ4j5gq/rikiPfUt diJowX6rV1uGTudLtHw9lisbSsERUq7/6g8USRmxP+2u9EeffblSbkDoRxfjZGsS IlB7h9zoqtj8y7haueSulGN4KeFiaK3RcCqL7HljqsVaEVyabzyduHEVPKnY8W9t WMoxqBoBzaRTlyAeHMWnrfNh5dTItDKaw8siQWfiMTBT6GPvZ2cI+AXxCzurYODK J9ctJmoKye2+adB9wSJ4NMa8d7WOQ6yDkqo3a/sEP2goAo+zHH9pY/6/hI9WB9OV SXZry+0+Cwnow6Mx+HqN1zQyx+pvQ==
X-ME-Sender: <xms:L3Y8YDQeOWSOhA_P5jSKuB4Jc0Xd5SxLvNaIK1hPmH9DjzfBXX-Eeg> <xme:L3Y8YEywWjUpPKKJaOw-SRxSpM4M1-DBT6owDBiwyEyAk3NUhv-oNbhsC4bJOzCgF E6ShxTYrF-dew>
X-ME-Proxy-Cause: gggruggvucftvghtrhhoucdtuddrgeduledrleejgdektdcutefuodetggdotefrodftvf curfhrohhfihhlvgemucfhrghsthforghilhdpqfgfvfdpuffrtefokffrpgfnqfghnecu uegrihhlohhuthemuceftddtnecunecujfgurhepuffvfhfhkffffgggjggtgfesthekre dttdefjeenucfhrhhomhepmfgvihhthhcuofhoohhrvgcuoehmohhorhgvsehnvghtfiho rhhkqdhhvghrvghtihgtshdrtghomheqnecuggftrfgrthhtvghrnhephefhuedtheefgf efgffhkeehgfeugfeiudeugeejkeefleelueeiffetfeeuudeunecukfhppedutdekrddv vddurddukedtrdduheenucevlhhushhtvghrufhiiigvpedtnecurfgrrhgrmhepmhgrih hlfhhrohhmpehmohhorhgvsehnvghtfihorhhkqdhhvghrvghtihgtshdrtghomh
X-ME-Proxy: <xmx:L3Y8YI2wcZdMOshxknchw_d0pzEPdYcHHTbfFO2mA58hGRpGUHS2NA> <xmx:L3Y8YDBG5uzELK_IU8qxvEVq0fQYgWRjXdN6xIvKNNJJd3jguu-fDw> <xmx:L3Y8YMjGnlFVR4iyy3dcRCxropgXhvti3PjyNL21vtxY5RibLx-6Hw> <xmx:MHY8YPQjw5oH55K3TOVlIjk6sQpUooozLc0Kg0ATkMcy1oKxsFMFPA>
Received: from [192.168.1.90] (108-221-180-15.lightspeed.knvltn.sbcglobal.net [108.221.180.15]) by mail.messagingengine.com (Postfix) with ESMTPA id 438CA24005A for <ietf@ietf.org>; Mon, 1 Mar 2021 00:05:51 -0500 (EST)
Subject: HTML for email (was: Re: document writing/editing tools used by IETF)
To: ietf@ietf.org
References: <20210227190200.06ED46F10439@ary.qy> <4064.1614454347@localhost> <s1f0vo$ejp$1@gal.iecc.com>
From: Keith Moore <moore@network-heretics.com>
Message-ID: <59240886-320d-fae3-6b98-7b83dacaf5e7@network-heretics.com>
Date: Mon, 1 Mar 2021 00:05:49 -0500
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:68.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/68.10.0
MIME-Version: 1.0
In-Reply-To: <s1f0vo$ejp$1@gal.iecc.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8; format=flowed
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
Content-Language: en-US
Archived-At: <https://mailarchive.ietf.org/arch/msg/ietf/NjGcY0SOY39i4AxGbTZva90TLHM>
X-BeenThere: ietf@ietf.org
X-Mailman-Version: 2.1.29
Precedence: list
List-Id: IETF-Discussion <ietf.ietf.org>
List-Unsubscribe: <https://www.ietf.org/mailman/options/ietf>, <mailto:ietf-request@ietf.org?subject=unsubscribe>
List-Archive: <https://mailarchive.ietf.org/arch/browse/ietf/>
List-Post: <mailto:ietf@ietf.org>
List-Help: <mailto:ietf-request@ietf.org?subject=help>
List-Subscribe: <https://www.ietf.org/mailman/listinfo/ietf>, <mailto:ietf-request@ietf.org?subject=subscribe>
X-List-Received-Date: Mon, 01 Mar 2021 05:05:56 -0000

On 2/27/21 10:00 PM, John Levine wrote:

> Indeed, but that was many decades ago. There are some ways in which the
> IETF is cutting edge, some in which we are amusingly backward. Most
> of the people I deal with can send an e-mail that says "I highlighted
> the changes in yellow" and all of their correspondents see the yellow
> text. Try that here. Remember that MIME was invented in the IETF and
> HTML down the virtual hall from here, both about 30 years ago.
Ok, but to be fair: HTML is a disaster for email.   Way back in the 
mid-1990s most of us thought it would work out ok, and more likely to 
succeed than text/richtext.   But we didn't really take the time to 
understand the nature of the problem in either case.    It's hard to 
write a good html editor for email, especially one that handles inline 
replies properly, and every single HTML editor for email I know of 
botches this.    Accidentally delete the line or invisible space before 
or after a change in format and it's likely to completely mess up your 
formatting, say by merging one correspondent's text with another.  HTML 
doesn't handle annotations well either because (gasp) text messages are 
not naturally hierarchical like HTML (and its *ML predecessors) expect 
them to be.   HTML hasn't exactly been a stable target either, and 
there's lots of variation among MUAs regarding which features are 
supported. It's hard to send an email message that looks more-or-less 
the same to every recipient.

(And, IMO unfortunately, a lot of MUAs take liberties with presentation 
of email messages, which only exacerbates the above problems.)

At the same time HTML is so widely deployed that it's very hard to 
deploy something that works better.

The specific behavior you cite above is actually due to a failure of 
standardization, because the vast majority of Big Corporate environments 
have settled on 1 of about 2 email products overall.   Highlighting text 
in yellow doesn't work as well in IETF because IETF participants are 
(fortunately) still more diverse than Big Corporate employees.

Keith