HTML in mail

From: Chuck McManis <>
Date: Fri Jun 16 17:34:47 2000

HTML is rude in mail messages sent to this list, just as it is rude to walk
around nude on a beach that has not embraced nudity. So that is the bottom
line. We may be HTML prudes, but we're open about it.

At 03:49 PM 6/16/00 -0500, Charles Hobbs wrote:
>5. It can spread viruses. Plain old ASCII e-mail doesn't do that (hoaxes
>like "Join The Crew" notwithstanding...)

This is incorrect. Outlook spreads viruses by exploiting a weakness in the
underlying architecture and the users of that architecture. The "love"
virus et al showed up as plain ascii text with an attachment that many user
mail agents convert into a "link."

>On Fri, 16 Jun 2000, Dave McGuire wrote:
> > 1) It's just not necessary for effective communications.

No, smoke signals work as well. Everyone on this knows that THIS IS
SHOUTING and *this* is an emphatic point. HTML gives you better markup than
case and punctuation symbols. Sending :-) is not as intuitive as sending
the smiley face symbol.

> > 2) It's a waste of bandwidth and system resources.

Again false. There is less waste due to the <html>/</html> and
<font></font> tags than there is from idiots that include a 600 line rant
and tag "I agree" on to the end. To steal a phrase, HTML doesn't waste
bandwidth, people do. :-) Correctly constructed, HTML is pretty efficient
at capturing added typographical information. Mailers that insist on
sending both an HTML version and a plain version are broken in my opinion.

> > 3) Technical people generally want genuine functionality to
> > prevail over "flash"...which is why many (most) technical people
> > in the industry (Visual Basic programmers don't count) don't
> > have Windows boxes on their desks if they have anything to say
> > about it.

HTML and windows are not tied as closely as you might think. Since HTML was
developed at CERN on Sun UNIX boxes it was tied at the time more closely to
UNIX. However, it is genuinely functional if I can include a diagram
in-line with my text that is _not_ composed of ascii characters and thus
won't be gobbledy gook when you see it.

> > 4) It's a clear outgrowth of the overcommercialization of the Internet,
> > in which uneducated users think the World Wide Web *IS* the
> > Internet, thus they try to cram the World Wide Web into
> > everything they do, and conversely, cram everything they do into
> > the World Wide Web.

You are confusing HTTP with HTML. HTML was explicitly designed so that a
"modern" computer (one that had a bitmapped screen rather than a terminal)
could be taken advantage of when you were *exchanging* documents. It was a
lot simpler than the printer description languages of the day, (and PDF
today) and, when tied with a convention (the URL) and a network protocol,
it could "link" related documents rather than include them and thus waste
precious bandwidth.

One alternative was RTF (Rich Text Format) which _was_ tied to windoze and
isn't very nice.

It is true that the "Internet" is defined by many to be the set of all
accessible HTTP sites, just as "everybody" is often defined to be everyone
within a geographical region. The human mind slides naturally into such
groupings and its unavoidable for a lot of people.

The future of e-mail may well be HTML. However, what we are actually
discussing is this particular community's standard of "decent" behaviour,
its morals if you will, and by current consensus, HTML is "rude." There is
no technical justification, just like there is no technical justification
for banning nudity on beaches. Accept it and move on.

Received on Fri Jun 16 2000 - 17:34:47 BST

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