If you’re one of those people that reads their email in multiple locations (say, on the Web with Gmail then on your desktop with Outlook) then I’m sure you’ve noticed that some, nay, alot of messages get butchered in one client but look perfectly fine in another.
This is typically a result of two separate problems. First, the developers of the email message that you received perhaps didn’t use Web standards when composing it. Alternatively, the email authors may have done everything right and composed the message using the most modern standards possible but the developers of your email client don’t know what they’re doing. It’s 50/50 for me… I’ve experienced both the former and the latter equally, I do believe.
Regardless of where the problem originated, there is a solution: agreeing to a set of standards and sticking to them.
That’s where the "Email Standards Project" comes in.
The goal of the Email Standards Project is to work with both the design community (to help them "understand why standards are so important for email") and email client developers (to "ensure that emails render consistently.")
More information is available at email-standards.org including info on how you can help with the project. You can even find up-to-date ratings of current email clients like Google’s Gmail (FAIL), Windows Live Mail (WIN) and, of course, everybody’s favorite email client: Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 (you guessed it: FAIL – most likely because it uses Microsoft Word as a rendering engine).
The tests are based on the ever-infamous acid test and go into detail as to what displays properly in the client and what doesn’t.
It’s a noble cause in my personal opinion and I sincerely hope that both Google and Microsoft invest a little more time and money into ensuring that some of their most popular products follow a set of reasonable standards… something that even Mozilla’s Thunderbird can offer.