Losing a bet, no HTML5 email in webmail clients

Last year in August I made a bet with Anna Yeaman that as of March 1st 2011 (which would be last week), at least one webmail provider (be it GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo or any other) would support HTML5 in their email clients. The reason I proposed this bet was that HTML5 was gaining quite some momentum and two of the biggest players in the industry (Google and Microsoft in this case) had both a browser (Internet Explorer and Chrome) and a webmail client (Hotmail and GMail) in the arena.

The bet was that I would send Anna some fine Belgian chocolate if one (any) provider didn’t get to support HTML5 email in their web clients by March 1st. Sadly, I lost: there is no HTML5 support so far in any webmail client (as of today 7th March 2011). Which means that when I’m in Belgium later this month I’ll have to visit a chocolatery and grab me some bonbons to send her way. D’oh!

Why would HTML5 support in webmail clients be such a big and cool thing? Maybe you’ve seen some examples and showcases already, but HTML5 could be just the thing many email marketers and designers have been waiting for. Being limited by Outlook 2007/2010’s incomplete HTML support (Word is not a valid HTML render engine) is bad enough as it is, but the webmail clients don’t make it easy either. Why is it that GMail after all these years doesn’t support CSS classes in an email? The list of non-standard email client behaviour goes on.

Other than Microsoft launching Active Views in December last year innovation in the world of email has been quite limited or even backwards in the case of Outlook 2007/2010. Email is getting more diversified among platforms, especially with the rise of mobile email usage introducing a host of new email clients and screen sizes to take into account. This also means the email experience is getting more condensed and more like fast food: quick bite sized glances on screens to update one’s email head, no extended look and read through the email. The future of email should be better than that.

With HTML5 email support built in web and offline mail clients the email experience could become more immersive and fun again, and also make a subscriber’s path more seamless from email to website. When one of the purposes of an email is to drive traffic to a company website, by all means make both channels as close and connected as possible to gain maximum effect. Email as a communications and marketing channel needs all the help it can get: I believe HTML5 can be one of the technological steps forward to finally welcome email into the 21st century.

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7 comments on “Losing a bet, no HTML5 email in webmail clients

  1. Jay Chambers says:

    Hope Anna enjoys her chocs!

    This is a shame Remy, but HTML5 can’t be too far away? Want to bet me ;)

  2. AndyT says:

    I concur Remy!
    I do recall that the MS Outlook team admitted word was pony in Outlook 2010 when they said that the Email Standards Project was just too late to do anything in Outlook 2010 but they did manage to get that auto-browser view link in it. But that’s not really got a lot of up take.
    I think Email Standards is the best project in existence for this at the moment and maybe more weight behind that could help.

  3. Remy says:

    @Jay agreed, it won’t be too long, maybe I’m just expecting too much or too soon.

    @Andy: yes, the Email Standards project is great, but should get a bit more foothold with with the software and web companies developing the email clients to get more stuff done :)

  4. Anna Yeaman says:

    Look forward to the choc Remy! BTW Love it when Andy drops words like gravy and pony into his comments, makes me homesick for Brighton :)

  5. Elliot Ross says:

    I’m not convinced we’ll ever get ‘web standard’ CSS in email, aside from anything else, it’s too much of a danger to the webmail experience – eg. it wouldn’t be too difficult to force a div or some kind of ad (or worse) to be positioned over another area of the webmail interface. The Email Standards Project needs to act more like the W3C and set a standard for email clients to adhere to, otherwise we’re only ever going to have piecemeal advancements on certain bits of code.

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