Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Worst.Technology.Application.Ever. (?)

It’s occurring to me this morning that in terms of benefit/cost, purely in “damage to society” terms, the decision to put html in emails could be one of the worst ideas in the past 25 years.

But that’s just me.  Your thoughts on others in the comments?

16 comments on "Worst.Technology.Application.Ever. (?)"

  • Peter says:

    That’s a good one. However if we’re talking benefit, cost, and damage to society, I don’t know how you can do worse than Microsoft Office as a whole. Not just in security terms, but have you seen some of those powerpoint decks? Gaah.

  • Adam says:


  • Andre Gironda says:

    The consistent demand to produce iteration demos and betas with no quality control beforehand, as well as zero assurance takeaways during or after said demos/betas.

    People ignore software quality like it is some kind of joke. By the time Steve McConnell’s brain is running a Microsoft Google OS, the rest of the world will look like the movie Idiocracy.

  • Jack says:

    Worst post ever?


  • Andrew Yeomans says:

    Filesystems where once you delete a file, it’s gone. Despite there being 499GB free space on the drive.

  • This is good. But, it’s missing something. We’ve moved e-mail from a quick, informal communication mechanism into so much more. E-mail systems are largely used for archiving data, word processing, marketing, and other things that plain text simply won’t support.

    Granted, we didn’t need to support HTML…

  • ChrisV says:

    While HTML in email is definitely up there, I contend that the worst technology application ever is the current crop of PC Operating Systems which have yet to deliver proper management (including decent security) of the underlying system resources.
    I contend that 90% of the current attack vectors would vanish if we had robust operating systems (and browsers). If that happened, we could then move on to working on the human side of the security equation to address the other 10%.

  • C says:

    Constant contact and small business owners would disagree with you, but only because they send out monthly news letters that no one reads.

    Them aside, I agree with you 🙂 Plain-text revolution!

  • wow… not sure whether to congratulate you on your post or back away slowly… JK! was a great read, haha

  • caf says:

    What about the decision to put Javascript into PDF readers? At least there were non-negligable entries on the “benefits” side of the ledger for HTML email.

  • Peter says:

    If you want to get into blaming applications for poor programmers then Flash easily takes the cake or the entire decision to even allow plugins into browsers.

  • Sven Türpe says:

    I don’t think so. The decision to put HTML into emails wasn’t a single decision, but a combination of at least two. The first decision was to allow richer email content with MIME, the second was to actually build support for inline HTML into user agents. I’m confident that the first decision has contributed a lot to making email the useful everyday tool it is today. The second decision was then inevitable, leaving a choice only as to the data format to be supported besides plain text. Instead of HTML, we could have e.g. PDF or DOC email today, but under no circumstances we could have just plain text. Would we be better off with PDF or DOC? I doubt it, and I don’t see the point of criticizing evolution in hindsight.

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