“The legit e-mail marketing companies…are really going to hate this feature,” Smith continued. “They use e-mail Web beacons…to gather statistics about e-mail advertising campaigns.”

Will they ever hate it.

A recent CNET article called New Outlook to give spammers the boot details changes to Outlook (the most used e-mail application) that default to NOT loading HTML images from remote servers when a message is shown. It’s not entirely clear if this only related to “preview windows” or all windows, but for legitimate marketers this is really going to mess up the move to HTML messaging, and along with it muddy e-mail tracking stats further.

At the same time, it’s a boon for people tired of HTML-laced spam, so it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out between now and the launch of Office 11 in the summer of 2003.