There are a few arguments against having mechanisms for private communication in profiles, but they aren't viable. All that remains is an argument in UI, and I propose that we allow use of the standardized and convenient
mailto: UI. Here are the arguments against enabling users to communicate by email from links in their profiles:
Allowing visitors to email users could move valuable Q&A off the site.
For this to have an impact, you need:
- A population of visitors who choose to search for email addresses in profiles instead of using the "Ask a question" button. This would be strange behavior, to say the least.
- A population of users with email-enabled profiles who choose to respond positively to questions sent by emails instead of posting the question on the site and self-answering. The most likely targets would be high-rep, experienced users, who probably would not do this.
- Continued growth of these populations until it began to impact the volume of the site. I assume that the majority of high-rep users who post their emails would discourage the behavior in group 1. Simultaneously, by not contributing to the site, the people in group 2 make themselves less visible. There's no reason this fad would grow, and a couple reasons it would die out.
I agree that it would be bad if people stopped contributing to the community. After
mailto: links are implemented, it's possible that content may be communicated in email instead of being shared. However, I find no evidence that it would have a significant impact.
mailto: links would subject people to spam.
Spamfilters are great these days. This comment from '09 mentions a publicly visible email address, getting 500 spam/day, and less than 1 in 5,000 getting through. There is an argument that this wastes bandwidth and processor cycles somewhere, but that's a pretty weak argument for not allowing legitimate users to enter a certain kind of URL.
Also, it should be noted that entering your email in your profile with any markup at all is completely optional. If you are worried about spam, don't add it. No one is proposing that we make your sign-on URL public.
I don't want other users to contact me.
As in the preceding paragraph, if you don't want to post your email, don't do it! You get no extra protection by not allowing others the freedom to post theirs in a user-friendly way.
I've found, from my time in the chatrooms, that my fellow SE users are quite friendly. I can understand that people might want to meet up in person, but there's no way to do private communication on SE. Plain-text emails in profiles work, sure, but why not make them clickable?
It should be noted that these arguments also apply to the twitter, google+, personal website links, and plain-text emails that we currently have available. Because these are allowed, implemented, and encouraged, it's plain that personal communication doesn't need to be discouraged by preventing
The only thing that is accomplished by not allowing these links is a UI pain where the user has to copy-paste the email into their mail client, instead of using the simple, fast, and standardized single-click on a link to start up an email client with the email pre-populated.
This is not a request to enable behavior that wasn't allowed before. This isn't a request to implement a complex feature. It's just a request to turn off the block in a place where it doesn't make sense.