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davorg (18)

davorg
  dave@dave.org.uk
http://dave.org.uk/
Yahoo! ID: daveorguk (Add User, Send Message)

Hacker, author, trainer

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Journal of davorg (18)

Monday February 17, 2003
12:00 PM

Hotmail Support

[ #10630 ]

Like most people I have friends who send me email from Hotmail accounts. In many cases the emails I get from them are in HTML. Now, I've configured my email system so that I don't get to see HTML emails. This is generally a good thing. But occasionally it prevents me from seeing an email from a friend.

So I decided to investigate a bit. I set myself up a Hotmail account and tried to work out what's going on. It seems that if you use Hotmail from IE you get the option to turn on the "rich text" editor. This allows you to add stuff like bold and italic fonts to your email. This is then converted to HTML as it's sent.

Now there's a similar feature in Outlook. The difference is that if you send a "rich text" email from Outlook then you get a plain text version sent as well. Hotmail doesn't do that. You just get the HTML version.

So here's the email I sent to Hotmail customer support. I sent it from my Hotmail account.

If I compose an email using the "rich text editor", there are certain people who complain that I am sending them HTML email that they can't read. Actually I don't think that it's that their email program can't read the HTML, rather that they've set it to delete HTML sections in MIME emails because of the security implications.

When I'm sending emails to the same people using Outlook, I can send "rich text" messages which they can read quite happily. Apparently the difference is that Outlook includes the HTML part along with a palin text part which they can read. It seems that Hotmail doesn't send a plain text version along with an HTML version.

Or am I missing something? Is it possible to set Hotmail to work the same way as Outlook? If so, why isn't it the default setting as it seems to be in Outlook.

Today I got a reply. Here is it.

Thank you for writing to Hotmail Support.

I can understand your difficulty some preson's receive your e-mails in the form of the HTML. I look forward to provide you with assistance today.

Dave,I would like to inform you that the problem that you are facing is not because of Hotmail. It is just because you might be sending the mails before your RTF tool gets loaded.

I also would like to inform you that the RTF tool takes time to load. So you have to take proper care while composing and sending the mails. The issue has not the do any thing with the Outlook Express.

Dave,I hope that the support help will be able to resolve your issue. In case if you need any further assistance please feel free to e-mail us again.

Remember that MSN Hotmail also has comprehensive online help available--just click Help in the upper right corner.

Ignoring the fact that Microsoft have obviously contracted out Hotmail customer support to somewhere where English isn't their first language, that answer is stil clearly nonsense. They are saying that if I left the rich text editor to load completely before sending my email then everything would work fine.

So I tried an experiment. I loaded up the Hotmail "compose" window and turned on the rich text editor. I then left if for 20 minutes to ensure that it was completely loaded. And then I sent a rich text message to one of my other email addresses. And guess what. There was no plain text version. Hotmail customer support have no idea what they are talking about. Is anyone surprised?

Has anyone else come across this problem? Has anyone solved it?

The Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not responsible for them in any way.
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  • proxy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darobin (1316) on 2003.02.17 13:26 (#17171) Homepage Journal

    The only option I can think of is to have a proxy doing the duplicating for you.

    Hmmm, thinking about it, you might be able to approach Hotmail bizdev people to implement that feature for them. Just sell it as a product in itself (ie not a patch) and with lots of "fascinating" data ("it has been proven that HTML mail sent without text counterpart causes US businesses alone losses in excess of 42 billion dollars a year, blah blah").

    --

    -- Robin Berjon [berjon.com]

  • In Register (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vsergu (505) on 2003.02.17 13:39 (#17174) Journal

    A story in The Register [theregister.co.uk] a week ago said the lack of an alternative text version was a recent change, but Hotmail denied it.

    I've just boosted the score for such messages in my local SpamAssassin proxy, since too much HTML-only spam was getting through. Maybe that was a bad idea, though I can't remember the last time I got a legitimate HTML-only message.

  • by wickline (135) on 2003.02.17 18:23 (#17182) Journal
    either

    1) educate folks to avoid HTML and RTF mail

    or

    2) adapt whatever HTML-deletion code you're using to replace the HTML part with a 'sanitized' version of the HTML. A crude approach would be to remove any/all tags, then wrap the result in a plain one-paragraph HTML document.

    or

    3) adapt whatever HTML-deletion code you're using to only delete the HTML if there is a an alternative text/plain part.

    or

    4) stop deleting HTML parts and use a MUA which will sanitize HTML mail for you. Mozilla is almost there now. Mailsmith, Eudora, Pine (probably Mutt and other terminal-type MUAs too) will display HTML without risk. There's probably other safe clients out there.

    or

    5) accpet the status quo until Microsoft gets around to changing it. :/

    -matt
    • Here's what I use for viewing HTML mail in mutt. This goes in my .mailcap:
      text/html; /usr/bin/w3m -s -dump %s; nametemplate=%s.html; copiousoutput

      And set mailcap_path=~/.mailcap goes in my .muttrc. Works pretty well. Thanks to Tantrix [paulm.com] for that one.

  • fastmail.fm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ask (83) <ask@develooper.com> on 2003.02.19 3:20 (#17222) Homepage Journal

    My girlfriend used to use Hotmail; I got here to use fastmail.fm [fastmail.fm] instead (using her own domain). Much better.

      - ask
    --

    -- ask bjoern hansen [askbjoernhansen.com], !try; do();