HTML emails are annoying

There are few things in internet and technology that I consider to be more stable than email. I'm not saying email is perfect but it's extremely reliable and has been in use — virtually unchanged — for decades.

It's decentralized and fault tolerant, and damn near impossible to actually lose an email; at least in transit.

There is something that's been annoying me more and more, and that's the use of HTML emails by companies in their newsletters and marketing email. Now, I don't have an issue with HTML email in general but if you're going to send it, at least respect the end user and provide a compatible plain text copy.

No plain text

Most people don't understand how email works under the hood and that's fine. There's generally no need for the average user to worry about these details. You don't need to know about the inner workings to not want to view your email in an html format. Especially if it's forced.

Email works as a series of attachments to a "base" message. These attachments can be an html format (the html email), plain text, zip file, or even an image of grandma and her cat.

Email has always been plain text but within the last decade HTML email use has risen as modern email clients (including webmail systems) have grown to fully support that experience.

My issue lies in the trend where email's are only sent in HTML format and totally ignoring the plain text copy. Most mail clients will not do this but there seems to be a trend to do away with plain text email. Especially in newsletters, marketing, or automated emails from online services.

I use the neomutt email client which is a text based interface that runs in a terminal. It's by far the most efficient email client I've ever used but displaying HTML emails in a terminal is a pretty annoying experience.

As soon as I find a sender who is only using HTML emails I immediately go looking for the unsubscribe link.

This leads me to...

No unsubscribe link

For some unknown reason many newsletters completely leave out the unsubscribe link from the plain text version of their email. When I find one of these senders who is repeatedly doing this I immediately move to report the email as spam.

In mutt I use elinks to parse and display HTML emails within the terminal. It does a pretty good job but that's an extra step I have to take to find the unsubscribe link; assuming there is one.

It's a total slap in the face of your subscribers to not provide subscription management options in a subscription based email.

No HTML email at all

I personally do not send HTML email ever. More and more I'm leaning towards removing it from our products because of it makes it easier for end users to be victims of phishing campaigns and privacy invasions. Here are just a few examples of the pitfalls introduced with HTML email:

  • Phishing
  • Pixel Tracking
  • Not accessible to all

There are actually quite a few reasons to abandon HTML email all together. For more on the topic please see

I know at this point it's a pipe dream but every single convert counts.