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Email Structure Protocol

Prevent huge, unreadable blocks of text
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Most websites seem to have learned already that their content should be broken up into sections, reachable by a simple menu of some sort. Even so, you still see web pages that take some minutes simply to scroll through, which is inexcusable with the freedom HTML and CSS give.

Email is another matter. Each email message is always exactly one page. If you have a lot of information, or the mail has been forwarded a few times, the message may be several screens high and hard to read. Email messages are plain-text or HTML nowadays, but there's no way around this "1 message = 1 page" format.

So I propose an extended MIME protocol, probably based on XML or XHTML, which can be used to divide the message into sections, or "pages". These could be represented by tabbed pages in your email client. Each page could have it's own title, and it should be possible to include "hyperlinks" in your text to a specific anchor on one of the other pages. If you forward or reply an email message, a page could be automatically created for the original.

This "book" format would only be one of the structures for emails, as described by the Email Structure Protocol. Structures like forum threads, represented by a tree diagram instead of tabs, should also be possible.

And the protocol should include tags for footnotes, annotations, etc.

Forthur, May 22 2006

Wikipedia: MIME http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIME
You reference MIME in your idea text. Are you familiar with the multipart major subtype? [jutta, Feb 22 2008]

[link]






       I quite like a big blob of text sometimes. It means I only have to worry about a single mode of navigation (scrolling up/down) instead of having to keep track of multiple pages etc.   

       If you want to send someone a paged email, type it up in a pdf, or put it into a series of blog entries and send your correspondents a link.   

       If you want to put some structure into your emails, without any technological dilly-dallying, simply use punctuation and paragraph breaks, like they do in printed media.   

       With big web-pages - I don't mind lots of text - sometimes, that structure works. I use my mouse to highlight a section sometimes, to help me keep track of where I am - but otherwise I don't mind it - as long as it's presented with some internal structure.   

       What I really don't like are great lumbering pages that are crammed full of overly fussy navigation controls that get in the way, fail to run in whatever browser I'm using, or that otherwise obfuscate the transmission of information from the writer, to the reader. Big, incorrectly sized pictures and badly coded CSS (esp text blocks overlapping other text blocks) are nasty too.   

       Couldn't you just write your emails with <div>s and <p>s, structured in such a way to render prettily in someone else's browser? Again, you're back at authoring a web page. I just want to type my text, put spaces in it, and make it obvious that this paragraph is to do with one thing.   

       And this one is to do with something else.
zen_tom, May 22 2006
  

       //If you want to put some structure into your emails, without any technological dilly-dallying, simply use punctuation and paragraph breaks, like they do in printed media.// Especially printed media is divided into pages.   

       //If you want to send someone a paged email, type it up in a pdf, or put it into a series of blog entries and send your correspondents a link.// This would all require other applications. All I wanted is to create an internally structured email, from the default email client.   

       //Couldn't you just write your emails with <div>s and <p>s, structured in such a way to render prettily in someone else's browser?// Hm. Would be very dependent on email client, but yes - that's about how we write our emails nowadays, isn't it? My idea was to improve that beyond fonts and colors.
Forthur, May 22 2006
  

       This has nothing to do with protocols. Your beef is with your email client, and with the clients of the people who send you email. You simply want them to send you email in different formats. There's nothing about the existing mail encoding, MIME, that would prevent them from doing that.   

       I'm with zen_tom in that I prefer scrolling through text over using more specific navigation. Scrolling is a generic operation that can often be performed using fixed interface components (e.g., arrow keys) without having to find anything or read anything.
jutta, Feb 22 2008
  
      
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