Re: HTML for email

Keith Moore <> Tue, 02 March 2021 17:39 UTC

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Subject: Re: HTML for email
To: Phillip Hallam-Baker <>, tom petch <>
Cc: IETF Discussion Mailing List <>
References: <20210227190200.06ED46F10439@ary.qy> <4064.1614454347@localhost> <s1f0vo$ejp$> <> <> <> <>
From: Keith Moore <>
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Date: Tue, 2 Mar 2021 12:39:44 -0500
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On 3/2/21 12:07 PM, Phillip Hallam-Baker wrote:

>     The points you make are all good, and good reason why IETF mailing
>     lists
>     should silently discard text/html attachments.
> No it shouldn't. The reason HTML email is so crappy is precisely 
> because people here failed to realize why the other 3 billion Internet 
> users wanted it. And you are still making that mistake.
I think you are overstating several things.  For example, 'the other 3 
billion Internet users' didn't necessarily want the HTML email we have 
with all of its privacy issues and other warts.   To a large extent they 
just used what they were given.   They may have had a choice of plain 
text vs. html email (and some may still have that choice), but the 
particular kind of HTML that their preferred MUA or more likely webmail 
implementation generates is now the widespread default
> Only a very very small fraction of the world is fond of VT100 console 
> output. It is a significant fraction of IETF but its still a minority.
Most IETF users aren't "fond of VT100 console output" either.  Even in 
IETF there are probably few users of plain-text email systems running in 
terminal windows.  (Not zero, but relatively few.)   And most IETF users 
can probably make good occasional use of bold face, italic, color, 
etc.   But because of the way we use email, with some conventions dating 
from when email was plain text only, we are especially aware of some of 
the worst limitations of HTML email.
> HTML email is bad because nobody in the places which might have had 
> influence wanted to make it really good.
Or maybe because each company had a different idea of what "really good" 
HTML email would be like, and nobody took a leadership role to try to 
make it interoperable.
> SMTP has had a good run. So has the telephone system. But they are 
> both long past their prime and need to go the way of the fax machine.

Yeah, right.   (Note that the fax machine has gone away largely because 
SMTP has replaced it.)

Anybody can design a system that's theoretically better than any 
existing system if they are smart enough and work hard enough. The trick 
is to get everyone else to go along with it.   And to displace something 
that actually exists and is working, the new system has to be MUCH 
better than the old.   The more widely deployed the existing system is, 
the harder it is to replace it. And incremental changes are not as pure 
as a clean sheet design, they are usually easier to deploy.