Re: "Mailto" Command

Harold A. Driscoll (
Mon, 24 Mar 1997 09:04:06 -0600

Message-Id: <>
Date: Mon, 24 Mar 1997 09:04:06 -0600
To: Jukka Korpela <>
From: "Harold A. Driscoll" <>
Subject: Re: "Mailto" Command
Cc: Brent Maxwell <brent@MO.NET>, Ian Wyatt <>,

At 10:49 24/3/97 +0200, Jukka Korpela wrote:
>On Mon, 24 Mar 1997, Brent Maxwell wrote:
>> it's something like mailto:someone@somewhere?subject=hello

Such usage is non-standard and highly questionable (except possibly in
relatively controlled Intranet settings) due to the inconsistent
implementation of such "extensions" among various browsers... not to
mention the harsh reality that it breaks badly on some standards-compliant
browsers (typically sending an email bounce message back to the Web site

>Have I joined the wrong list? I thought this was for _discussing
>the development of HTML_, not for asking frequently asked questions
>and telling wrong answers to them.

Such, alas, would seem to be the nature of the beast (email list
participants). But, if you've constructive suggestions, no doubt several
other lists which discuss mailing list administration might be interested.

Constructive responses to off-topic posts include private email well as ignoring the question... particularly the later when
one has difficulty constructing a polite reply. Rarely is a response to the
list appropriate, clarifying flat-out wrong answers occasionally being one
of them.

>As regards to the evolution of HTML, I think there is clear need
>for a standardized method for specifying that a form be sent
>as a mail (RFC 822) message to a given address or list of addresses.
>The specification need not be part of HTML specification proper;
>it might be separate short W3C recommendation.

Such a proposal currently exists, as an Internet-Draft
<draft-hoffman-mailto-url-00.txt> [1]. The proposal, which is part of the
project to update the URL specification document, RFC 1738 [2], addresses
many of the concerns which have been raised in various areas, with (IMHO) a
clean and practical definition.

On the down side, the proposal is not fully backward compatible with RFC
1738. That seems a defensible thing to do in this particular situation.

>Now people are writing miscellaneous CGI scripts, trying to persuade
>webmasters to install them, wondering how to write programs which
>process the messages without really knowing their exact syntax, etc.

C'mon, reality check, please. The syntax of email messages is both
particularly easy to parse, as well as very well know as an open standard.
Further, it follows common Internet practice, hence being very similar to
that used for HTTP headers. The "S" in SMTP really does stand for "Simple."


ps. That some people engage in areas of technology in which they lack
knowledge is certainly unfortunate, but hardly novel to the Web. Making an
abundance of information available (as W3C and many of us strive to do,
often with some measure of success) is likely the best available antidote.
Concurrent efforts to standardize and simplify are equally important and
sometimes effective.
[1] "The mailto URL scheme",01/08/1997, 8,890 bytes,
<draft-hoffman-mailto-url-00.txt> --

[2] RFC 1738 PS [Proposed Standard] T. Berners-Lee, L. Masinter, M.
McCahill, "Uniform Resource Locators (URL)", 12/20/1994. (Pages=25)

'The point? The community is hardly dead. And the usual advice applies:
anyone who wants more signal and less noise should generate more signal,
not just complain about the noise. As I like to say, it's easy to hit the
"Delete" key, but my keyboard has no "Create" key.'
  --Tim May, March 1997, responding to "the death of Cypherpunks" fears.
Harold A. Driscoll             
#include <std/disclaimer>