Email Standards Project, according to the group.Yahoo! representatives have agreed to adhere to 100% of the recommendations for email clients made by the
The Email Standards Project (ESP) is a campaign working to bring all the major email clients into compliance with a subset of HTML standards so that HTML emails will render appropriately everywhere.
ESP is lead by Mark Wyner, a standards-centric web design firm founder who lives in Portland, Oregon (I live there too, but we've never met.) The group rates 14 of the leading email clients based on a test and actively campaigns to increase adherence. Yahoo! has been among the most enthusiastic respondents, GMail and Outlook among the worst.
Why Standards in Email?
The group acknowledges that many designers condemn HTML emails all together but says that it's clear they are here to stay. They are too effective for marketing purposes and too compelling for users for the practice to disappear.
Unfortunately, the lack of standards compliance in receiving clients means that special design work is required beyond existing web design and HTML email regularly arrives looking ugly anyway. It's technically non-trivial for clients to deal with incoming HTML emails and spam is an issue faced more in the email world than in the standards-loving web design community at large.
Bad Google, Bad!
GMail and the other Google apps have been revolutionary in many ways. Standards compliance has not been one of them, however. My #1 question about OpenSocial has always been "why can't Google just play nicely with existing standards already under development?" Sometimes they do, OAuth for example is being supported in OpenSocial and Blogger now supports OpenID login for commenting. By and large, though, Google seems like a big bully who won't play nicely with others because they don't have to. The question of email standards seems just one more example of that.
I may be reading too much into GMail's relationship with this group (ESP) but I do know that the campaign for standards complaince in email is as worthy an effort as other standards movements. Standards are the a key foundation for innovation. We've written here before about the Inbox 2.0 of the future - I hope that standards compliance can be a part of that.