Text/enriched

Tuesday 8 June 2004

I received an email recently that had a text attachment with this XML stuff in it:

<fontfamily><param>Helvetica</param><bigger>http://example.com</bigger></fontfamily>

It didn’t look familiar, so I did a few Google searches, and eventually found RFC 1896: The text/enriched MIME Content-type. It isn’t XML: it’s an SGML-influenced syntax for simple enrichments to plain text emails. Funny that it’s been out there for so long and I’d never run across it before.

This feels like an abandoned line of development in the progress of technology, like gopher, Archie, and Veronica. They were good ideas, but something even better, and at first blush not even that different, came along and blew them away.

BTW: Zvon’s great RFC Repository is still the best way I’ve found to read RFC’s, but they seem to have sprouted an unusually diverse bunch of ad mushrooms. They seem to be sprinkled everywhere, in remarkable variety, and for some very spam-worthy products. Too bad, but necessary I suppose.

Comments

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Michael Wexler 8:36 AM on 8 Jun 2004

I think this is not dissimilar to the RTF format used by AOL and other "simple mailers". You can use links and text formatting, and practically nothing else.

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Kent 12:04 PM on 8 Jun 2004

Another place to read RFCs is Connected: An Internet Encyclopedia

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Ian Bicking 3:25 PM on 8 Jun 2004

I might be making this up, but I remember this being part of the NeXTSTEP Mail.app, but it was the only mail program I knew of at the time that supported it. Which would explain why it never caught on that much. Poor NeXT.

[gravatar]
Bob 8:50 PM on 8 Jun 2004

Ian,

Not quite right. NeXTMail used RTF, an enhanced version of Microsoft RTF (aka rich text format).

NeXT Mail predated MIME by a few years and so they designed their own format. NextMail supported rich content including attachments for several years before MIME was really viable. In fact, until HTML came along, MIME didn't really have a decent rich text format.

As far as "Poor NeXT": Let's see... Apple bought them, Steve Jobs runs Apple, Avi Tevanian is Apple's CTO and, best of all, Macintosh OS X contains most of the useful parts of NextStep. Seems like they did okay ;-)

Also: OS X's Mail.app is a very nice distant cousin of the old Next Mail application.

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andrew 3:54 PM on 10 Jun 2004

Full disclosure: Bob really liked his $10K NeXT cube.

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Bob 10:01 PM on 13 Jun 2004

Andrew: Yes I loved my NeXT cube but I didn't pay for it. Lotus did. Although NeXT circa 1990 was somewhat more expensive than a PC, it was much more powerful and was dirt cheap compared to a workstation from Sun, HP, DEC, etc.

I bought a NeXTstation (aka slab) in 1991. We were offered the same discount as NeXT employees so it was only a little more expensive than a Macintosh from the same era. I sold it a couple years later.

I still have a NeXT cube under my desk at work. It hasn't been turned on for a few years. Wonder if it still works?

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