[bf1942] HTML Posting sucks

ScratchMonkey ScratchMonkey at MatureAsskickers.net
Tue Jul 19 13:10:20 EDT 2005

--On Tuesday, July 19, 2005 5:17 PM +0100 Nicholas McGovern 
<hydro at downclan.com> wrote:

> If formatting and presentation is your primary concern, send someone a
> PDF email. It's an open standard with formatting capabilities that far
> outweight HTML.

Great point.

I don't think anyone's pointed out a couple of other issues specific to 
mailing lists: archives and digests. Digests do not at all handle any kind 
of attachment well. I doubt most archives do, either. If you want your 
message readable by the digest readers and useful to archive users, then 
you should pick a format that the mailing list software can easily parse.

The other big issues to me, as a mail server admin, are spam and viruses. 
It's quite hard to hide spam and viruses in plain text. About the only 
successful form is the 419 scam (AKA Nigerian phish).

The prevalence of viruses is primarily due to the use of one particular 
email client that is widely left unpatched and will execute anything that 
looks remotely executable in its unpatched form. That means attachments, 
and unfortunately HTML is the most popular vector for this disease. Server 
admins like myself must deploy computationally expensive scanners that slow 
down everyone's email while they laboriously search each and every message 
for hostile content. It would be so much easier if we could just drop all 
the HTML, but we have to scan it to allow for those who can't figure out 
how to turn it off when composing messages.

Similarly, the prevalence of spam is largely due to the ease of hiding it 
in HTML, which makes it fairly easy to obscure the spam message with bogus 
tags so that automated parsers must work extra hard to extract the evil. It 
doesn't help that again that same email client will compensate for HTML 
syntax errors, making it necessary for spam scanners to emulate the same 
compensation instead of performing a simple strict parse. Nor does it help 
that bugs in that client cause it to send malformed HTML, so just 
discarding malformed HTML is not a solution, either.

If you religiously love HTML in email, then join the SpamAssassin team and 
develop code to spot the spam, phish, and viruses in your favorite medium. 
The disgusting things you find in HTML email to sneak that crap through 
might change your mind.

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