The last 24 hours on fixoutlook.org

It’s been an amazing 24 hours for the Campaign Monitor team since we launched fixoutlook.org on behalf of the Email Standards Project yesterday afternoon (Sydney time). In less than a day, we hit an incredible 20,000 tweets from the community who shared our position on Microsoft’s lack of standards support in Outlook 2010.

Just as impressively, we received an official response from Microsoft before the day was out. While this wasn’t exactly the message we’d been hoping for, there were certainly some positives to be taken from it. We posted a follow up to Microsoft’s response on the Email Standards project blog not long after.

Twitter is by no means a vacuum, and the amount of tweets and interest in our approach resulted in coverage across the web on a huge scale. Here are some of the highlights.

This coverage combined with the relentless flow of tweets resulted in more than 100,000 page views on fixoutlook.org in the first day.

The story behind the site

The moment we heard the news about Outlook 2010 and tested it for ourselves, we knew it was important to act fast. If there was any possibility of getting Microsoft on board before Office 2010 then we couldn’t delay any longer. After a brainstorming session, the idea to use Twitter to spread the word was born and developed quickly from there.

Ever since the site launched, we’ve had loads of enquiries from people interested in how the site was actually built. The site was created in less than a week by the talented guys at Newism, which we’ve worked with on loads of projects before. I think we can all agree that they did an amazing job.

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It was a completely home grown solution the guys built out of the box using the Twitter search API. The Newism team have told me they plan on doing a more comprehensive post on the nuts and bolts of this process, so I’ll be sure to share that when it eventuates.

While Twitter has been used to encourage change in lots of different ways before, there were a few unique additions that I think contributed to our success. Todd Zeigler summed it up perfectly in his post today.

What’s next

We’ve already been back in touch with Microsoft since the site launched, and are hoping that the continued pressure from the community will lead them to re-assess their position on standards. In the mean time, we’ll keep trying our best to spread the word through the ESP blog and the newly created @fixoutlook account on Twitter.

Thanks again for the amazing level of support we’ve had to date. 20,000 people coming together to encourage change in 24 hours is something we can all be proud of.

Posted by David Greiner

14 Comments

  • Rod Bishop
    25th June

    Can we invite MailChimp et al to join the action? I don’t think this should be an exclusively CM thing - if it’s whole-industry then the retort “silly marketing stunt” goes out the window. Plus more people = greater chance of success.

  • David Greiner
    25th June

    Hi Rod, we’ve been lucky enough to have many contributions made to the ESP since it launched, often from other providers. Not to mention countless tweets and blog posts they’ve been kind enough to create about this project since it launched. Of course, we’re also open to more people coming on board and helping where they can.

    At the same time, I think the community can see through any underhanded attempts by Microsoft to discredit the ESP, especially considering the message isn’t just from a single organization, but 20,000 people who genuinely care about this decision.

  • Damien Buckley
    25th June

    I think Microsoft’s cack-handed response has pretty much blown up in their face (apart from with the die-hard fanboys anyway).  They may have been wise to wait and see just how much exposure it generated and provide a more considered reply - as a wise elder once told me ‘a still tongue keeps a cool head’.  Instead, they blurted out a retort, questioning the ESP’s credibility and aiming lame attacks at Campaing Monitor.  In the time that passed, the groundswell of opinion grew against them and judging by some of the comments on their blog, they may well be ruing the day that post was published.

    In my opinion the nature of their response demonstrates fully the volume of the campaign caught them off guard and left them a little shaken.

    Keep up the pressure - its not over yet. I see fixoutlook has clocked up over 22,000 tweets now!

    Well done to newism - amazing job and really looking forward to seeing the anatomy - they are clearly a team to watch.

  • David Bell
    26th June

    Love the fixoutlook concept, great work.  Watched it for ages trying to find my thumbnail.  Thanks for taking this on, a timely subject since I spend almost a week fighting with email templates in Outlook 2007.  Just so painful to work with.

  • George
    26th June

    Microsoft does have a point that normal users aren’t sending out HTML e-mails through systems like CM. Yet most Outlook users are business users, and most of them aren’t sending crazy e-mails with lots of images and layouts.

    In any case, they should be able to have their UI create HTML-based results instead of Word’s proprietary method. The fact that mails made specifically in Outlook will only look fine for other Outlook users should tell Microsoft that they are on the wrong path here.

    Microsoft does know that not everyone uses Outlook??

  • Ian Pollard
    26th June

    Let’s be honest, who is going to be brave enough to design a pure CSS float-based layout even if Outlook 2010 is released with an alternative rendering engine? How long do you wait for the tail on something like that to reduce the number of Outlook 2007 users to a small enough minority to effectively disregard them?

    I think the “you’ll be designing with tables for another 5 years” quip was very conservative, even with a change to Outlook. I have plenty of clients who still use Outlook 2000—software now a decade old.

    Grumpy old git ramble out of the way… I’d love to see this happen. Maybe the funny handshake mob over at the Email Experience Council will do something useful for a change and lend some weight to this initiative?

  • stubear
    26th June

    Instead of trying to get Microsoft to remove Word for rendering HTML e-mail , why not attempt to get them to include both rendering engines and use mime types to decide which one to use?  I understand the desire to render Word generated e-mails and there might be some uses we aren’t seeing because our workflows are dissimilar and I’m not willing to paint the entire Outlook using community with such a broad brush.  However, there are benefits to rendering HTML e-mails sent through a service such as Campaign Monitor and working to get Microsoft to switch rendering engines on the fly within Outlook for these instances would be highly beneficial to people who need this capability.

  • Mike
    26th June

    Microsoft should either create software that complies with accepted standards or just not bother. Computer are supposed to make our lives easier and this sort of arrogant ignorance is not helpful.

    Developers should boycott their software. We’ve had this for years on the browser side with IE. A broken browser equals a broken site. Companies still using outdated versions of IE should update for security reasons - there’s no reason not too. Later versions are much better.

    E-mail shouldn’t start to suffer now. If companies like Mozilla can get it right, on a fraction of the funding available, it’s inexcusable that Microsoft continue to defy common sense.

    There’s better alternatives out there. Use them. Not Microsoft. They are not worthy.

  • Bjørn
    26th June

    While I may agree that Microsoft is on a wrong path, I do not agree with the CampaignMonitor has choosen i advertising their campaign against Microsofts plans. I for one do not remember signing up for being part of CampaingMonitors campaign against Microsoft. What CampaignMonitor is doing is spamming. They use their customer database and basically takes their customers hostage in a campaign against Microsoft. I do not agree with everything MS, but I do not send out emails to my customers asking them to participate in any campaign against anyone I as a business might have a gripe with. I think CampaignMonitor has crossed an ethical line here and should step back and take a look at the principles in adressing other people and with what intent.

  • Damien Buckley
    26th June

    @Ian - the tragic thing is that we’ve had to go backwards - we started our foray into email marketing using pure css layout.  In the past couple of years however we’ve had to work backwards and are now using exclusively tabled layouts and a recent revision of our own e-newsletter has seen the move from css to tabled layout and massive simplification in the design.  Its not only frustrating in that I’m having to use tables but sad that 3 years ago we could use pure css (the now discontinued pure CSS Digital Web Magazine e-newsletter was widely covered on CM’s blog) and in 2009 we’re having to use decades-defunct techniques on account of Microsofts’ ego-centric focus.

  • Ian Pollard
    26th June

    @Damien - totally agree and feel your pain. However, I’ve only made pure CSS templates as experiments, never given them to my clients for a live send. Weirdly—or maybe not—my company has won plenty of work over the years offering “technical design” to agencies that have tried and failed to make HTML emails that render consistently.

    @Bjørn - eh? I believe joining fixoutlook.org or the Email Standards Project was entirely optional, not some evil Borg-like assimilation.

  • Kevin
    27th June

    Microsoft DO follow standards when it comes to email.

    They allow and correctly rend plain text.

    Only spammers want to waste bandwidth sending HTML.

  • HarlemJoe
    27th June

    Kevin is a douche. Get a job and find out how easy it is to say no to HTML email campaigns. Text emails don’t convert. I think I’m going to update my subscription form and require that Outlook users identify themselves, then I’ll just segment the list and send them a link.

    The biggest problem with the Twitter campaign was that it was obvious that a lot of people had no idea what was really going on. They were acting like Outlook 10 was going to introduce something new, not retain a woefully ridiculous decision from three years prior. RTs are lame.

  • Flash
    5th July

    Great post!

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