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Re: <a href="mailto:email address">

From: Jukka Korpela <jkorpela@cc.hut.fi>
Date: Wed, 8 Jul 1998 08:26:43 +0300 (EET DST)
To: www-html@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.OSF.3.96.980708074551.11843B-100000@alpha.hut.fi>
On Tue, 7 Jul 1998, Stephen Hui wrote:

> You can set the values of subject, body and other information on such a
> link.  It is done with the following:
> <A
> href="mailto:recipient@domain.com?subject=SUBJECT-TEXT&body=BODY-TEXT&cc=OTH
> ER-RECIPIENT&bcc=BLIND-RECIPIENT">

As a practical advice on HTML authoring, this is dangerous
disinformation. See
http://www.htmlhelp.com/faq/wdgfaq.htm#44

For the purposes of this list
(see http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/ under "Discussion Forums")
I'd like to make the following remarks on mailto: URLs.

The HTML 4.0 Specification makes a _normative_ reference to
http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/uri/draft-fielding-uri-syntax-01.txt
( in http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/references.html )
It says that "This is a work in progress that is expected to update
[RFC1738] and [RFC1808]." This means that the reference is
self-contradictory - a normative reference to a work in progress.

Moreover, the URL itself has become invalid (404 File Not Found).
That's what often happens to documents which describe some phases
in works in progress. It _shouldn't_ happen of course, at least not
to documents describing important working documents (which might
well be of historical interest), but it does.

There seems to be a working document "Uniform Resource Identifiers (URI):
Generic Syntax") at
http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/uri/draft-fielding-uri-syntax-03.txt
dated June 4, 1998. And it contains the normal statement in
Interner-Drafts:
   "It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts
   as reference material or to cite them other than as ``work in
   progress.''"
And it seems to discuss (mainly) the generic syntax only, so it
couldn't be a _replacement_ for RFC 1738 and RFC 1808; it does not,
for example, mention the mailto: scheme at all except in examples
(using the good old simple syntax with just one Internet E-mail
address).

It seems that the idea is to define the syntax and semantics of
specific URL schemes in separate documents. See
http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/uri/

In particular, there is a working document titled
"The mailto URL scheme" at
http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/uri/draft-hoffman-mailto-url-05.txt 
so that in the list above it is dated "09 Jun 1998" but in the document
itself "June 8, 1997" (which implies it expired over half a year ago).

For the purposes of HTML authoring, the proposed extended syntax
is harmful. It currently breaks on a large number of browsers.
The normal safe way of adding extensions like this would be to add
_attributes_ to the A element. Something like <A HREF="foo@bar"
SUBJECT="some subject"> (assuming one does not like the old idea
of using TITLE for subject in this context - an idea which has
been debated over in some length in c.i.w.a.h.) would degrade gracefully
according to the principle that browsers ignore attributes they
don't know. Or one could add some more generic syntax analogously
with the META element (using one attribute to specify field name
and another to specify its content). Moreover, since the field value
would be an HTML attribute value to be processed separately, not
as part of a URL, there would be no need to URL-encode data like spaces
within it.

Yucca, http://www.hut.fi/u/jkorpela/ or http://yucca.hut.fi/yucca.html
Received on Wednesday, 8 July 1998 01:26:21 GMT

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