[development] HTML emails

Benjamin Lewis ben.lewis at benl.co.uk
Thu Jul 17 21:03:50 UTC 2008

Steven Peck wrote:
> On Wed, Jul 16, 2008 at 6:59 PM, Larry Garfield <larry at garfieldtech.com> wrote:
>> On Wednesday 16 July 2008 4:26:38 pm Benjamin Lewis wrote:
>>> Eric-Alexander Schaefer wrote:
>>>> Larry Garfield schrieb:
>>>>> I am going to take the luddite position.  Consider yourself warned. :-)
>>>> Thanks (for your position, not the warning).
>>>> Plaintext should be the default and HTML _could_ be an option. If HTML
>>>> is used, it should contain a plaintext version.
>>> It MUST contain a plaintext version (per RFC 2119 [1])
>>> [1] http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2119
>> You're making the naive assumption that people actually follow that
>> requirement. :-)  LOTS of email floating about the Net, both legit and
>> spam/trojans, contains HTML and no body.  And sending the message twice
>> (plain and HTML) is a slap in the face to anyone on low bandwidth.
>> --
>> Larry Garfield
>> larry at garfieldtech.com
> Urban legends aside, actually it is not a naive assumption, it's a
> valid one and the referenced RFC is a good starting point for anyone
> wanting to develop a valid message format.  The vast majority of spam
> filters will in fact block as spam malformed messages.  A message is
> considered malformed if it only has HTML content and no text
> component.  The percentage in gross terms of malformed messages

I also hate it when I receive messages that say something like:

"You need to upgrade your mail client to see HTML messages"

That is not, imho, a good enough text component and it would be really 
good if this could _also_ be avoided.

> (particularly deliberate spam) is fairly low to the overall percentage
> of email.  We block approximately 85-90% of the incoming email where I
> work as spam and of that 85-90% less than 2% is triggered as
> malformed.  It is a mid-sized environment with about 30 million
> messages in the last month.  In the early days of spam (where simple
> word filters roamed free as the tool of choice), malformed messages
> were not tested for and as a result spammers used that technique for a
> while.

Exactly, so it is absolutely paramount that we output well-formed messages.

> While sending HTML messages is in fact harder on low bandwidth
> recipients, HTML messages are a fact of life and there is a portion of
> a given customer base that does in fact want to use it.


Benjamin Lewis
Fedora Ambassador
ben.lewis at benl.co.uk

http://benl.co.uk./                                 PGP Key: 0x647E480C

"In cases of major discrepancy, it is always reality that got it wrong"
                                                         -- RFC 1118
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