Oldstyle HTML – the worst offenders

More and more, the WWW is cleansed of old, outdated pages. In more and more cases, the browsers will finally be able to go into standards mode – no more quirks.

But one bastion still remains to be conquered.

Consider this:

<br><font size=2 face="sans-serif">Danke</font>
<br><font size=2 face="sans-serif">Gruss</font>
<br><font size=2 face="sans-serif">xxxx</font>

By accident, I had my email client on “View Source” mode and this is the (complete) body of an email my dad sent me.

Beside the fact that it’s a total abuse of HTML email (the message does not contain anything plain text would not have been able to contain), it’s an obscene waste of bandwith:

The email ALSO contains a text alternative part, effectively doubling its size – not to speak of the unneeded HTML tags.

What’s even worse: This is presentational markup at its finest. Even if I would insist in creating a HTML mail for this message, this would have totally sufficed:

Danke<br />
Gruss<br />
xxxx<br />

Or – semantically correct:

<p>Danke</p>
<p>Gruss</p>
<p>xxx</p>

Personally, I actually see reason behind a certain kind of HTML email. Newsletter or product announcements come to mind. Why use plain text if you can send over the whole message in a way that’s nice for users to view?

Your users are used to viewing rich content – everyone of them probably has a web browser installed.

And with todays bandwith it’s even possible to transfer the image and all pictures in one nice package. No security warnings, no crappy looking layout due to broken images.

What I don’t see though is what email programs are actually doing. Why send over messages like the one in the example as HTML? Why waste the users bandwith (granted: It doesn’t matter any more) and even create security problems (by forcing the email client to display HTML) to send a message that’s not looking any different than one consisting of plain text?

The message also underlines another problem: The old presentational markup actually lent itself perfectly for creating WYSIWYG editors. But today’s way of creating HTML pages just won’t work in these editors for the reasons I outlined in my posting about Word 2007

Still – using a little bit of CSS could result in so much nicer HTML emails which have the additional benefit of being totally readable even if the user has a client not capable of displaying HTML (which is a wise decision security-wise).

Oh and in case you wonder what client created that email…

    X-MIMETrack: Serialize by Router on ZHJZ11/xxxx(Release 7.0.1FP1|April 17, 2006) at
     02.10.2006 16:35:09,
    	Serialize complete at 02.10.2006 16:35:09,
    	Itemize by SMTP Server on ZHJZ05/xxxxx(Release 6.5.3|September 14, 2004) at
     02.10.2006 16:36:15,
    	Serialize by Router on ZHJZ05/xxxxx(Release 6.5.3|September 14, 2004) at
     02.10.2006 16:36:19,
    	Serialize complete at 02.10.2006 16:36:19

I wonder if using a notes version of september 04 is a good thing to do in todays world full of spam, spyware and other nice things – especially considering that my dad is working in a public office.