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Microsoft responds to our call for standards support

Posted by Dave Greiner on June 25, 2009 in Email Client News

Firstly, I want to take this opportunity to express a sincere thanks to everyone for taking the time to spread the word about the fixoutlook.org campaign today. As we near 20,000 tweets, it’s been an overwhelmingly positive response.

It’s also been fantastic to see William Kennedy, Corporate Vice President of the Office team respond so quickly to the community on the Outlook team blog. There are some positives to take away from the post, as well as a number of issues I think need further clarification.

“We’ve made the decision to continue to use Word for creating e-mail messages because we believe it’s the best e-mail authoring experience around, with rich tools that our Word customers have enjoyed for over 25 years.”

As outlined in our original post, we are in no way advocating that Microsoft shift from using Word to create or render HTML emails. We’re asking that the HTML produced by the Word engine be standards compliant. This in turn will ensure that the engine will correctly render standards-based emails.

“Microsoft welcomes the development of broadly-adopted e-mail standards. We understand that e-mail is about interoperability among various e-mail programs...”

This is certainly music to our ears. The only problem is that “broadly adopted standards” already exist for HTML email. They are called web standards, and almost every email client on the market meets these standards. It doesn’t make sense to advocate a completely different set of standards to stipulate how HTML should be rendered in an email client as opposed to a web browser.

It’s important to remember the W3C’s CSS standard was created back in 1996. Not only that, but Outlook 2000 offered fantastic CSS support. The fact that software released 10 years later offers significantly less standards support does not reflect that Microsoft “understand that e-mail is about interoperability”.

If Microsoft is looking for a place to start, we’ve been advocating a list of recommendations the Outlook team should consider to meet an acceptable level of standards support since the release of Outlook 2007 two years ago.

“For e-mail viewing, Word also provides security benefits that are not available in a browser: Word cannot run web script or other active content that may threaten the security and safety of our customers.”

Every modern email client blocks scripting by default already. Our push for standards is not advocating support for anything other than the correct rendering of CSS. We agree that JavaScript has no place in an email client.

“The ‘Email Standards Project’ does not represent a sanctioned standard or an industry consensus in this area.”

Sanctioned or not, we’ve had a great partnership with companies like Apple and Yahoo! who have been more than happy to work with us in improving their support for web standards in their own email clients. As for consensus, surely 20,000 individuals sending a unified message in less than 24 hours is something at least worth your consideration.

If you’re interested in more coverage and discussion of this important issue, here is a great place to start.

We’ll continue to keep you all in the loop as this develops, and you might also consider following our progress on Twitter at the just created twitter.com/fixoutlook.

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