On E-Mail Inaccessibility

For the record, I love my e-mail client.

I use The Bat. I discovered it, what seems like ten years ago, and didn’t begin to use it regularly (yes, finally abandoning Outlook Express) until about 2001.

What I love about The Bat is that it works hard to be secure. And that means that it’s pretty nasty with HTML formatted e-mails.

Take, for instance, the e-mails I receive from GameStop with their weekly specials.

The Bat doesn’t show me linked images, because they’re not attached in the e-mail. Which is a good policy, sort of. It’s easy on the recipient. However, it’s also not secure, as it can 1) inject malicious code onto an unsuspecting user’s computer, and 2) an unscrupulous sender could use this to track his recipients. The Bat simply doesn’t show the linked images; they may as well not even exist.

At the same time, while The Bat can and does do HTML rendering in the preview pane, it doesn’t show anything live. Nothing’s clickable, even if it’s supposed to be.

So, take this GameStop e-mail. What I get is this:

Which is a whole lotta nuthin’. 😉

Talk about inaccessibility!

This e-mail doesn’t communicate to me. To someone who uses a text-only e-mail client — and I used to use The Bat as exactly that, and there are people who only work in plain text — an e-mail like that is worse than useless. It’s a waste of time. It wastes bandwidth when it was downloaded. It wastes the user’s time when it’s read (or rather, not read, because there’s nothing to read).

And now it wastes your time, because you’ve just spent fifteen seconds reading this. 😉

I realize that bells and whistles are where the Web is going. E-mail hasn’t caught up with all the fun and fancy things webpages can do. But for everyone who thinks that what e-mail needs is more HTML under the hood, I think about the millions of people sending text messages on cell phones. Communication doesn’t require pictures. Plain ASCII works quite well. It’s not going anywhere.

I really should send an unsubscribe message to the GameStop promo e-mails. They’re not doing me any good.

I’m not complaining about GameStop, mind you. Their e-mail was simply a handy target for my ire. 😉

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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