Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(November 2000)

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Subject: Re: HTML Based Email (AOL 6.0)
From: "Rachel Blackman" <sparks @ noderunner . net>
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 2000 19:28:00 -0800
To: <list-managers @ greatcircle . com>
References: <3A005337.6192.5F0AD1@localhost> <3A006B80.17944.BDEBFB@localhost>

> > You're fighting a battle that might be noble, but is long lost.
> Sez you.  In my little corner of the Internet, I am winning this
> battle.  Listowners who have apprenticed under me know the value of
> keeping a discussion mailing list "text only," and follow in step to
> this doctrine.  ASCII text is the only egalitarian method we have for
> email and that is paramount for free and unencumbered discussion in
> mailing lists.  This is not about stifling progress, Chuq, as you
> alluded with your questions, but rather making sure that free
> discussion is not abated.  HTML stifles free discussion because it
> inhibits some members of a discussion group to participate freely in
> the ongoing discussion.

I didn't read Chuq's argument as saying that progress was being stifled...
just that people /will/ move on, and eventually, people will either find
that remaining behind is crippling to them or be forced to move on as well.
What you say about HTML stifling free discussion because it inhibits members
from participating reminds me an awful lot about what I read in a history
book about people saying about the telephone when it first came out... that
it was 'elitist' and that 'people who don't have this newfangled thing can
no longer communicate with their friends, why don't people just stick to
postal mail?'

While I /personally/ happen to think plaintext e-mail makes more sense and
is friendlier overall, the vast numbers of new users of the Internet are
being introduced to e-mail as a bright, colorful way of communicating.
Doubtless, the people who wanted the phone left behind had /good/ reasons
for it - there's something nice about a handwritten letter which can be kept
and treasured, and shown to descendants, and letters can often be more deep,
and thought-out.  Especially in those early days when most phone calls were
just to enjoy the novelty of it, much like how HTML e-mail is often used
these days.  ("Hey, look!  I can send CoLoR and FOnTs!  And <insert giant
JPG of the word 'pictures'>!")

While it's nice to take the attitude that 'we were here first, the Internet
should run the way we want it to', it won't happen.  All doing things like
making mailing list software not function with HTML e-mail does is annoy
users and make them go use some other, flashier, Microsoft-written mailing
list product or something. ;)

Now, I'm not saying HTML should be embraced, but things like demime are a
good idea; it makes existing technology coexist with new technology.

Simply saying 'HTML e-mail is bad and should be banned' as I've heard many
people, including a number of my own friends, say may be idealistically
sound, but it's also unrealistic in expectation.  HTML e-mail is, like it or
not, probably here to stay, and it's likely only going to grow.  I, for one,
am just glad they went with HTML and not something like RTF, which would've
been far harder to parse. :)


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