About a month ago, some of my various google or technorati alerts linked me to a new website called the "email standards project".  Their objective:

The Email Standards Project works with email client developers and the design community to improve web standards support and accessibility in email.
Their initial test results were not too positive for Lotus Notes 8 -- "improvement recommended" was the polite way they described their testing of Notes 8.

I was pretty surprised to see their test results, because Notes 8 now uses an embedded browser control to render HTML mail.  The project's "acid test" e-mail looked pretty different to me than their posted results.

Over the last few weeks, I've had an ongoing dialogue with the people running this project, as well as with the Notes development organization.  It turns out that the email standards project did their Notes 8 testing in POP/IMAP mode, which -- at least according to their test -- uses the built-in Notes HTML rendering engine.  Notes 8 doesn't fare so well that way in their tests.  Development says that there is a way to configure a POP3 mailbox in Notes 8 to use the embedded browser to render HTML, but the standards project testers couldn't configure that.  Thus, for POP and IMAP users, "improvement recommended" may in fact be the outcome of the moment.

Put a Domino server in the equation, though, and Notes 8 renders the "acid test" e-mail nearly flawlessly, using the standard Mail8.ntf template and MIME (rather than rich text) settings.  Matthew Patterson posted an update on the email standards blog following our interactions of the last few weeks:
As you can see in these partial screenshots, the Domino server version renders much closer to our Acid Test. IBM tells us that almost 90% of their customers are using Lotus Notes 8 with Domino Server, which use Internet Explorer for HTML email rendering when viewing emails. This is great news! Your subscribers on Notes may be getting a better experience than previously thought.
The original Notes 8 page hasn't been updated with this information, though, other than to indicate that those tests were done with Notes 8 as a POP/IMAP client.

I agree that the stand-alone Notes use case deserves a better experience, and even Notes 8 via Domino has room to grow in the area of HTML e-mail.  I don't have a resounding conclusion or road forward to communicate in this blog entry.  The point of posting this is to acknowledge the several people who have pinged me about this website in the last month, the willingness to work with us from the email standards project organization, and the importance of getting HTML mail as good as possible for typical use cases.  It's demonstrative of how important standards and interoperability are to helping everyone communicate better.

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