Saturday, July 10, 2010

Notes on Displaying Inline Images in AOL Webmail

This is probably not of interest to most readers, but I've posted it here for reference, and because for some reason, I'm actually having trouble sending it as an email message to those who most want to see it.

It appears that AOL (Webmail, at least) suppresses inline images in email messages by default. You can deal with this in several ways.

For reference, here is a partial screen shot taken while I was logged into my AOL account. (Click it to enlarge.)

AOL Webmail screen shot

Section 1 shows two links which should be fairly self-explanatory. The only difference, as far as I can tell, is that if you click "always for this sender" instead of "for this message," there will be a side effect: the sender will be added to your Contact List. This may not be what you'd always want.

Section 2 indicates a more general solution: Click the link labeled "Settings" and you'll be taken to a new page. On that new page, in the "Reading" section, look for an item labeled "Hide images in mail from unknown senders" and uncheck the corresponding box. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Save" button. Click the "Back to Mail" button near the upper left corner to get back to your message. You'll probably have to reload the page to see your changes take effect. (Or, after clicking the "Save" button, just close the window you're using to read AOL, and come back to it again.)

Have fun! Good luck, and let me know if you have any problems. (But not by sending me mail on AOL -- I only use that account for testing purposes.)


P.S. Conscience-clearing and overly geeky disclaimer: I should say that some people would recommend against the second approach I described above. It is largely a matter of theoretical concern at this point, and niggling at that, but for the record: inline images can be used by someone who an email sender to track who is reading the email message(s) in which the image appears. This is because most inline images are stored on a separate server (computer), and loaded into the message separately from the text when you view your mail. If the sender has access to the server where the images are stored, he or she can tell that an image associated with a specific email message has been accessed (downloaded by AOL, to show it to you, in this case), and therefore, that the message has been opened by you, the reader.

Some view this as a privacy concern, since you're giving out two bits of information to the sender: that yours is a working email address, and that you have seen this particular message. My own view is that spam is so automated and sent in so much bulk these days that no spammer alive cares anymore whether individual email addresses work or not. And as far as someone knowing I read his or her mail ,,, uh, not losing any sleep over that, either. But, just so you know. I suppose I could imagine a use-case where someone would be legitimately worried.

However, I might recommend using the either of the two options in the first approach described above for another reason: if you're on a slow connection, who needs to see all that extra imagery in most email messages, anyway? Probably in this case, you only want to see images from people you know, or maybe you'd like to make the choice on a case-by-case basis.


Don McArthur said...

Even more Big Brother-ish, if the images are provided by a centralized source serving multiple customers, the email can then be tied to a more complete record of your overall Internet travels.

Your browser-based email clients can be configured to display all images that are included with the email, while refusing to load images from remote servers. That will leave the data harvesters with one less venue for total information awareness.

Brendan said...

Thanks for the additional info, Don.