Trouble's Afoot for Sender ID

  |  September 8, 2004   |  Comments

The e-mail authentication protocol is running into trouble in the standards-making process.

Sender ID, the email authentication protocol backed by Microsoft and supported by the E-Mail Service Providers Coalition (ESPC), may be in trouble.

As concerns over intellectual property rights to the technology mount, a key standards-making group is considering next steps for Sender ID. The matter is coming to a head because the MARID working group, which has been considering technologies to recommend to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), is approaching its deadline to reach a consensus. That deadline is September 10.

"It is the opinion of the co-chairs at this time (before the end of last call) that the MARID working group has no consensus regarding the deployment of Sender ID," wrote Andrew Newton, co-chair of MARID, in an email to the group. "This lack of consensus centers around the IPR [intellectual property rights] associated with the PRA algorithm."

The algorithm in question was developed by Microsoft, and the software giant claims certain intellectual property relating to the technology. The company has said, however, that it will grant a free license to those who want to use it.

Those assurances have been met with skepticism by the open source community. Last week, both the Apache Software Foundation and the Debian Project -- two influential open source groups -- said Sender ID was at odds with the ideal of open Internet standards.

"The current Microsoft Royalty-Free Sender ID Patent License Agreement terms are a barrier to any ASF project which wants to implement Sender ID," said the Apache Software Foundation in a statement. "We believe the current license is generally incompatible with open source, contrary to the practice of open Internet standards, and specifically incompatible with the Apache License 2.0. Therefore, we will not implement or deploy Sender ID under the current license terms."

The Apache Software Foundation is an open-source organization that manages the Apache SpamAssassin email filter and the Java Apache Mail Enterprise Server. The Debian Project, which produces the Debian GNU/Linux operating system, also said it would refuse to implement Sender ID.

"Given that both Apache and Debian have now said that they will not deploy, I think that it is a fairly serious problem," said Anne P. Mitchell, an attorney and president of the Institute for Spam and Public Policy.

Watchers of the process feel the open source uproar stems at least partially from open source backers' longstanding suspicion of Microsoft. But there's also a perception that mistrust between senders and receivers of email is playing a role.

"Senders backing any one particular system is as likely to make the system suspect as it is to facilitate adoption -- perhaps more likely," said Mitchell.

One important distinction between Sender ID and other protocols like SPF is that the Microsoft-backed system authenticates the "from" address that is seen by the end user. That's thought to be critical in fighting the phishing problem and protecting companies' brands. SPF checks only the "bounce" address.

Despite the controversy, the ESPC remains hopeful about Sender ID's fate.

"The broadest adoption possible and the most consistent standards are in the interests of not just senders, not just ISPs, but of consumers," said Trevor Hughes, executive director of the ESPC.

Hughes also points out that even if it doesn't become a standard, Sender ID will still be a factor if the major ISPs adopt it.

"Where we stand is that Sender ID is going to be a reality for large senders," he said. "We don't question the sincerity of the folks who are raising concerns over open source compatibility. We just haven't come up with the same concerns."

ClickZ Live Chicago Learn Digital Marketing Insights From Leading Brands!
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda, or register and attend one of the best ClickZ events yet!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pamela Parker

Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

UPCOMING TRAINING

Featured White Papers

Google My Business Listings Demystified

Google My Business Listings Demystified
To help brands control how they appear online, Google has developed a new offering: Google My Business Locations. This whitepaper helps marketers understand how to use this powerful new tool.

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line

5 Ways to Personalize Beyond the Subject Line
82 percent of shoppers say they would buy more items from a brand if the emails they sent were more personalized. This white paper offer five tactics that will personalize your email beyond the subject line and drive real business growth.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Resources

Jobs

    • Executive Assistant
      Executive Assistant (Agora Inc. ) - BaltimoreAgora Inc., an international publishing company, located in the Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore, MD...
    • Paid Search Specialist
      Paid Search Specialist (Boathouse, Inc.) - Waltham  Boathouse is looking for a Paid Search Specialist to work as a part of the Digital Acquisition...
    • Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing (SEM, PPC) Specialist
      Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing (SEM, PPC) Specialist (HeBS Digital) - New YorkJOB TITLE:     Paid Search / Search Engine Marketing...