Should links inside emails be considered attachments? In the technical sense of an email (like rfc 2183) links wouldn’t be considered a different content type. The question isn’t whether they are technically attachments as much as if they should be attachment-like in the user interface.
Facebook handles links in a message almost like an attachment-object and will do some additional meta work on the link to provide a default photo and short description for it.
In the message list view Facebook offers an icon to note that a link attachment was included in a messages.
In the composition view Facebook also grabs links from inside the message and shows them separately as an attachment like thing. In the screenshot below the composition window grabbed the link inside my message and pulled down a description and number of photos from the site.
This kind of meta data around a link can be really beneficial. The presentation of the link is better than a person naturally would and since it’s the information is retrieved automatically it only takes extra seconds to make sure a good image and description appear.
Beyond just the benefits of better presentation is another hot topic in the Thunderbird world of offline support. When reading mails offline it’s far better to have a more context about the link than none at all. Even if I can’t bring up the link in an offline state the image, description and comment can help me to recall what the link is about.
When you’re using the rich editor for composing a message in Gmail and create a link it has some nice features for recognizing a link and helping you edit it. Here are some screen shots of what Gmail is doing right now.
Popup indicates the link has been recognized in compose window
Editing a Link
Alternatively Editing an Email link
Pretty straightforward and simple stuff when compared to the extra things Facebook is doing. Gmail doesn’t add meta-data about the links or make their inclusion visible in the message list.
Links as Attachments
If in Thunderbird we wanted to start treating links more like we treat attachments…
- How do we present that to the user?
- Both in terms of composing messages and when receiving links in messages.
- Do we grab meta data for links sent to us?
- assuming some kind of policy about what links we can do that with
- And should we be making links available somehow in Firefox?