We are now in December, and officially in the countdown to another Christmas. Many of us will be given to expect all manner of Christmas trinkets in our stockings this year, but it’s going to be a sad year in the email department, it seems that all bells and whistles will be dropped from HTML emails this holiday season.

Most of you are expecting kitsch and cliche images of jolly St. Nick with his puffy rosy cheeks, dancing his way around the candy pole; snow flakes; holly and mistletoe. To a modern email client, still images, animated gif, midi tracks and flash files are viewed as potentially significant security risks.

When opening your Christmas emails and e-cards this year you’ll think there’s been a mass exodus – the Dozers have gotten past Doc and Sprocket, left Fraggle Rock and have started to rebuild their civilization with glass-like scaffolding against stark gray backgrounds right in your Inbox…the result of designers being forced to layout pages with nested tables and the security settings cranked up to ‘paranoia’ status blocking every image it finds. Yes, it looks like the email Grinch that took away CSS-rendering earlier this year and increased the security in email clients (yes, we’re talking about you Microsoft) is here to stay.

But alas, a bright star above over yonder has appeared and they are calling themselves the Email Standards Project. Starting out as a community of passionate teams and individuals who decided to stop complaining about how the ‘Grinch’ stole their CSS, and decided to be proactive in making email a better experience for designers and readers. Their goal, “to help designers understand why web standards are so important for email, while working with email client developers to ensure that emails render consistently.”

With all the quirks experienced with the various Internet browsers across the different platforms, we are lucky that HTML has remained such a universal format. A page viewed in Firefox 1.5 on a Compaq running XP Pro SP2, should be just as happy running (without any major issues) in Safari 2.0 on a Mac installed with OS X 10.3.

Now wouldn’t it be great if the same were true for a HTML email running between AOL Webmail, Apple Mac, Apple Mail, Eudora, Google Gmail, Lotus Notes 8, Entourage, Outlook 2007, Thunderbird, Windows Live Hotmail, Windows Live Mail, Windows Mail, Yahoo! Mail ?!

With myself being closely involved with the development of HMTL emails here at Jack in the box, it’ll be a beautiful day when I see nothing but green lights beside the email clients named above.

Visit http://www.email-standards.org/acid-test/ to see how these email clients perform in the Email Standards Project acid test.