MS has a big spanner

Microsoft are, yet again, releasing a feature that’s probably going to be pushed as some kind of improvement, but will be to the detriment of 99% of its users: In Outlook 2007 they are removing the IE-based HTML renderer and substituting Word’s HTML renderer instead, you know, the one that makes Netscape 2 look good. Admittedly, IE in Outlook has historically been the vector for the vast majority of viruses (hence the ‘Outbreak’ nickname), but that’s mostly untrue in recent versions. Microsoft are touting IE7 as the most secure version ever, yet it seems to be too insecure for Outlook? They might come up with some kind of lame antitrust-compliance excuse, but they could instead simply open their internal protocols and use pluggable renderers, just like Linux and OS X do. I suspect it will have zero effect on spammers, most of whom don’t use HTML significantly any more, and they don’t care anyway. Erstwhile competitor CampaignMonitor has an excellent take on the situation.

So what does this mean? Probably the end of HTML email marketing as we know it. It will cost the industry millions in lost revenue – not that MS costing industries millions is anything new. OTOH, it might just usher in a new age where marketeers have to remember how to write decent copy.

If they wanted to make a real difference, they could perhaps fix their SenderID spec to talk to SPF correctly, or perhaps get Exchange to send bounce messages that actually contain useful information, like (and I don’t think I’m asking too much) the address the message was originally sent to.

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