HTML Email

May 25, 2024

I believe one of the unfortunate things that happened in the computer world is the prevalence of HTML email. Perhaps this is not as bad as web browsers becoming complicated super apps that do everything, but HTML email borrows the same rendering technology as the web browser, so maybe I should consider them the same thing. Ultimately, with email, I want to control how the content is displayed to me. With HTML email, the sender is trying to make that decision. It’s harder to parse the content itself with HTML because the markup isn’t a trivial language anymore.

As an experiment, I’ve created another folder for email with a text/html MIME type. I’ll check it less often than my inbox, perhaps like a spam folder. Here is roughly what it looks like using notmuch/Emacs:

(setq notmuch-saved-searches '(
  (:name "inbox" :query "tag:inbox and not tag:list and not tag:html")
  (:name "html" :query "tag:inbox and tag:html and not tag:list")))

Abbreviation of what my tags batch file is doing:

notmuch tag +html -- mimetype:text/html

I’ve noticed some senders include a text/plain section but it’s either garbage or an empty alternative. So it’s not sufficient to see if senders are including a text/plain section. I always prefer when senders give me an option to send text-only email.