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  • April 18, 2012

Alert: Hotmail converting some symbol characters into images

UPDATED 4/19, 5/1 and 9/3.

Hotmail has started replacing some special characters with .gif images that are 19x19 pixels in size whether they appear in a subject line or the body of an email. Those characters affected include trademark (™), copyright (©), registration (®), spade (♠), club (♣), heart (♥) and diamond (♦).

These affected characters are most likely to appear in marketers’ footers, as in this Lands’ End email yesterday:

Apr. 17, 2012 Lands’ End email

While causing minimal disruptions in footers, the Hotmail change makes trademark, copyright and registration symbols even more distracting than usual when used in subject lines and preheader text, as in this Victoria’s Secret email yesterday:

Apr. 17, 2012 Victoria’s Secret email

The one upside to this change is that the heart and diamond symbols now really pop when used in subject lines since Hotmail makes them red and larger than the corresponding symbol characters, as you can see in this inbox screenshot:

Symbols in subject lines in Hotmail

But in general you’re going to want to work around these Hotmail changes by adjusting your email coding. The best fixes are discussed on Responsys’ New School Marketing blog.

UPDATE #1: It appears that this change was not intentional by Hotmail, which is working on fixing it.

UPDATE #2: Hotmail resolved this issue at the end of April. These characters are now rendering as expected.

UPDATE #3: This issue reemerged as a problem in July and August. Knowing that Microsoft was aware of this, I figured that it would go away again, but it hasn't. In fact, an even wider array of special characters are being converted to images, including sun, airplane, checkmark and arrow characters. 
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