Microsoft welcomes email standards for Outlook

June 25, 2009

Microsoft welcomes email standards Web designers have banded together on Twitter to call for Web standards support in Microsoft Outlook 2010. Microsoft’s response is that the company welcomes the development of email standards, but won’t concern itself with well-formed HTML or other new-fangled Web standards.

The kerfuffle started with the launch of an online campaign called The campaign pushes Twitter users to ask Microsoft for better Web standards support in the upcoming version of Outlook.

The cacophony of tweets asking Microsoft to fix Outlook grew to over 6,000 as of yesterday. As of today there are over 20,000 tweets from Microsoft’s user community asking for better rendering of HTML emails.

Microsoft responded to the requests with a blog post late yesterday afternoon explaining why Outlook uses Word to author emails. In fact, Word is an advanced authoring tool that makes it very easy for anyone to create emails that will look great in Outlook.

These emails will even display well in nearly any browser and are fine and dandy as long as you never have to edit them in their HTML form. Upon editing the email for advanced Web functionality, you would find Outlook emails to be a mess of table layouts and font tags that have been retired from Web standards.

The real problem is that unless Web designers that are creating email messages use these same outdated standards, their work won’t be rendered correctly in Outlook. So while using Word to draft emails isn’t an issue for most users, rendering emails created in HTML is.

It’s possible that Microsoft could start using Internet Explorer to render pages in Outlook. The problem there is that either it would have to switch to Word for drafting emails and replies, or build its editing tools over from scratch.

The best solution for fixing Outlook to be Web standards compliant isn’t so simple. It would require Microsoft updating the rendering engine in Word to support the new benchmarks in Web standards: div tags and CSS. Let’s all hold our breathe on that becoming a priority before the launch of Office 2010.

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