Charlie's Diary

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Thu, 26 Jun 2003

Ten reasons why I do not read HTML email

  1. When you sent me email, you are requesting access to my eyeballs. Access is granted only on my terms. I choose to read my mail in monospaced 10-point text in a terminal window. I don't care if you want to use blinking underlined boldface or WingDings, it will be read in monospaced 10-point text in a terminal window or not at all.
  2. HTML is not an RFC standard for email text. (Go here if you don't know what an RFC is.)
  3. HTML allows you to embed links, and inline images stored on a web server. I often receive and process my email offline. I do not want to open your missive on my Palm Pilot and have to wait ten years while it goes online via my cellular phone and downloads your precious letterhead or stupid snapshot at 9600 baud.
  4. Images can be sized to one pixel by one pixel, and made transparent. IMG SRC tags can point to server-side programs that log the client that sent a request for the one-by-one invisible image. The IMG SRC request can carry data such as the email address to which the mail was sent. This confirms that the email has been received. This is known as a web-bug, and it is a favourite technique of spammers for verifying that an email account is valid and there's someone there to receive their spam. I don't like spam, thank you very much.
  5. Javascript (or rather, ECMAScript) is untrusted third-party code that can be executed on my computer if I read your HTML email. Sorry, but I don't run untrusted code -- and that includes scripts of unknown origin arriving in my mailbox.
  6. HTML email is bloated -- typically to at least double the size of the plain text. (And that's without images or script content.) Repeat after me: "consuming someone else's bandwidth without their prior content is wrong." Especially if you don't know whether I'm going to read your missive using a cable modem or a cellphone making an international dialup call at 9600 baud.
  7. Through force of habit I use an email client called Mutt. Mutt is an extremely powerful non-graphical UNIX-based tool that runs in a terminal window. Mutt is small and fast, in large part because Mutt is not a web browser. I am not going to switch to reading my email in a web browser just to stroke your ego.
  8. SpamAssassin, the discerning netizen's spam trapping tool of choice, thinks that HTML email with no plain text accompaniment is spam. That's a good heuristic -- almost all spam email is HTML-only. I do not read spam.
  9. Long experience shows that those mail clients most vulnerable to worms, viruses, and other stupid infections invariably default to using HTML instead of plain text. There's a reason for this (see #5 above). By using an email client that doesn't process HTML, you can drastically cut the risk of picking up a nasty infection.
  10. Long experience shows that people who persistently send HTML email are often not aware that they are doing so. This is symptomatic of a marked lack of situational awareness -- they haven't bothered to find out just what the internet is, what the conventions surrounding its use are, and how to configure the tools they are using. Merely pleading ignorance is no defense -- did you expect to get behind the wheel of a car and drive it without learning what the controls do and what the rules of the road are? In general, I have found that people who persistently send HTML email rarely have anything of interest to say. It indicates a preoccupation with style over substance, ignorance over experience -- which is why it goes straight in the trash.

(And no, I'm not going to tell you who just rattled my cage. Let's just say I'm scratchy right now and leave it at that, okay?)

posted at: 22:29 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
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December 2004
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March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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