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Read notifications, standards, and Microsoft

Some might dread the feature of "read notifications" supported by certain MUAs; some call it an "invasion of privacy"; and yet, it can also be useful in certain situations:

When a message is read or seen in a MUA supporting this extension, the programme emits a notification back to the sender saying something along the lines of "your message … was read on …". This is good to know, especially in times when you cannot wait for the failed-delivery-notification that follows four to five days of unsuccessful (but furious) attempts of some delivery agent, assuming it doesn't get trashed as spam.

Such a read notification is logically a reply to the original message, isn't it?

The RFC 680 proposed in April 1975 defines the header References as a way to point to "other correspondence which this message references". This header, along with In-Reply-To (defined in the same RFC), is commonly used in every-day mail traffic to refer to previously exchanged messages, and enables mail readers to thread separate messages together into coherent conversations (it takes a human to remove the coherence, the technical aspect is infallible).


Microsoft was also founded in April 1975, and it took them 20 years to barely manage to squeeze through the Internet door without the proverbial foot in it. They published a browser and several e-mail programmes, and it always appeared as if they tiredlessly tried to be different from the rest, attempting to form a clique of users, a Microsoft league in which to increase their revenue through network effects. Sounds bad, is bad, but yet again, they managed, through unimaginable feats of entrepreneurial genius and ruthless behaviour.


In 1982, STD11 declared the aforementioned In-Reply-To and References headers as standards. At that time, Microsoft software didn't even know what a computer network was.


Does it come as a surprise that read notifications sent by Microsoft e-mail programmes, such as Microsoft Outlook do not make use of either of these standard headers to tag read notifications they send?

Instead, Microsoft pushes Thread-Topic and Thread-Index, which are undocumented and thus probably only work in a Microsoft-only context.

How am I supposed to assume anything else than Microsoft actively trying to oppose standards.

Anyone who boycotts standards is hindering progress and should be left behind. It's good to see that the Internet society seems to follow that trend more and more.

Update: I found a way to extract the data to recreate the In-Reply-To with procmail. I don't see a way to do the same for the References header. Also, I've only verified that this works for message disposition notifications from Outlook 2003, although I expect it to work for other, similarly crippled MUAs too.