Recently a friend sent out an email to many compatriots about the release of his new book. For those of us who are authors, announcing a new book is a big deal. A day or so later, he was distressed to discover that when the recipients tried to click the link in his email to read more about the book, the link wouldn't open the Web page.
The email was in HTML (not text) format, so when I looked at the code behind the link, I could see BLOCKED in front of the URL. In other words, if you look at the HTML code that makes up the email, the link looked something like this:
<a href="BLOCKED::http://www.mynewbook.com/">My Book</a>
In some email programs, if you hold your mouse over the link, you can see the word "BLOCKED" in front of the link. Or if you can force the link to open in your browser, you get a "Page Cannot Be Displayed" error because of the "BLOCKED" in front of Web address on the address bar.
Interestingly, he was not the first person to send me an email with that type of problem that day. I was able to see the links on another person's email by removing the obnoxious "BLOCKED" in the address bar of my browser, so it would process real URL and show the intended page. But let's face it, most people wouldn't do that, and in some email programs, it's difficult to see the code behind the scenes (even if you actually want to).
As it turns out, the problem happens to Outlook users when they copy URLs from one email message and paste them into another one. In this case, my author friend had composed more than one version of his book announcement and in the process of copying and pasting, inadvertently triggered this problem.
Although the person receiving the email can't change settings to fix the links, the person sending can change their external content setting to avoid causing the problem in the first place. In Outlook 2003, choose Tools|Options|Security|Change Automatic Download Settings.
As I've mentioned many times before, I don't use Outlook, so the links I send out work fine. In fact, these types of endless security "features" and issues are why I have always refused to use Outlook at all.