Formatted vs. plain text mail (was: Call for testing the new dist-upgrade process)

Jan Claeys lists at
Tue Mar 14 17:09:54 GMT 2006

Op di, 14-03-2006 te 10:57 -0500, schreef Jeff Bailey:
> Le mardi 14 mars 2006 à 16:13 +0100, Jan Claeys a écrit : 
> > Op di, 14-03-2006 te 08:06 -0500, schreef Jeff Bailey:
> > > And some of us who have done it quite intentionally because it's
> > > sometimes useful to be able to annotate mail with something other than
> > > plain text.
> > 
> > Which is useful in about 0.01% of all mails, in which case it's probably
> > easier to just put your document online on a webserver (or attach it to
> > the mail).
> It's certainly more useful than 1 in 10,000 emails.  Looking through
> my email history, it looks more like 20 - 25%, if you include
> clickable links.

Making links clickable doesn't require HTML and using HTML doesn't make
links clickable.  The same is true for quotations, various levels of
emphasis, indenting, etc.

> > > Modern clients all provide a text/html component, and the ones I've
> > > played with in depth (mutt and evolution) each provide an option to
> > > show the text/plain when presented with an alternative.

Note that Evolution doesn't provide this option (at least not in

> > There is also webmail, where you often have no choice, but where using
> > html view is a real privacy & security issue...
> I'm not familiar with a wide variety of webmail clients.  But the HTML
> mail problem for privacy and security issue isn't going to be solved
> by regular mail not using HTML.

HTML may include "webbugs" & JavaScript that has security & privacy
issues.  It's one reason why I almost never use webmail.  And, if I use
it, then only for selected mails that I'm (almost) sure I can trust.

> > Also, the mail archives of the ubuntu lists don't show attachments,
> > which means all HTML messages are not available there.  See your message
> > I'm answering to now:
> > <>
> Pipermail and Mailman are particularly poorly written.  For example,
> mod_mbox handles text/html correctly.  qmail strips text/html out.

Mailman doesn't do archives.  And I absolutely don't want to view
text/html mails as such in a browser, because that's insecure by

> > Technically that means you send a message that has 2 attachments(!) with
> > an indication that they are 2 representations of the same "data".  See
> > at the archives above what that does to many programs (mailing list
> > recipients aren't only mail clients for use by humans).
> No.  The email is sent out as multipart/signed.  The first section of
> which is a multipart/alternative.  The first section of that is
> text/plain, done in utf-8, the second is text/html, done in utf-8.
> Then the signature is attached to it.  The RFCs covering this (1847,
> 1521) are standards track and have been around since October 1995 and
> September 1993 respectively.  Failure to cope with these is, at this
> point, just a bug in a few programs.

Which still means everything is sent as "attachments"...
And MIME (potentially) is so complicated that it's almost impossible to
cater for all possible ways to include text in it and decide which
combination of those text/* attachments should be assembled to get the
"main" text.

Jan Claeys

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