Forms, mailto-URLs, and The Right Thing

Steinar Bang (
Fri, 27 Jan 1995 08:01:55 +0100

[sorry about the resend! Forgot to include the reference at the end -sb]

A local user asked today how he should create a link that would let
web surfers mail him feedback on his home page. He had tried to use
someone else's setup that used a CGI script that was not installed on
our server.

The current way we have been handling forms, have been to let a CGI
script create a mail message, and send it to the appropriate
person. I've always found this a bit unsatisfactory, because it means
that all mail from the form, gets as the sender. You
have to rely on the person filling out the form to set the correct
address (perhaps augmented by some code that checks the address
against the domain name of the client).

So I dug up the July 1994 HTML 2.0 RFC draft, and started reading. If
I read page 2-25 correctly, it doesn't put any limits on what type of
URL you can use in the "action" attribute. It didn't say that you
could use a "mailto" URL there, but as far as I can see it doesn't say
you couldn't.

Well, I have 3 browsers at hand that I know have both forms and
support for "mailto" URLs (Lynx 2.3, Tuebingen XMosaic 2.5.something,
and Netscape), so I decided to experiment a little [1] (if I start
getting obscure messages from this, it'll disappear. Please just

I found that the only browser of the three that did (IMO) The Right
Thing, was Netscape.

The Right Thing here would be:
Where the action attribute in a <form> element is a "mailto" URL, and
the method attribute is "post", create a message on the fly and send
the contents of the <input>s of the form to the mail address given by
the URL

And I would very much like to see other browsers copy the Netscape

- Steinar