E-Mail Senders to Proceed Despite MARID Meltdown

Will the dissolution of a key group developing email authentication standards stop the technology from being adopted by marketers? Groups representing email service providers and marketers say no.

Organizers said yesterday that the MTA Authorization Records in DNS (MARID) working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) was being shut down. They’d decided the group, meant to “fast track” email authentication standards, was hopelessly mired in controversy.

“Efforts to reach consensus by compromise and by inclusion have been attempted on multiple occasions,” wrote Ted Hardie, co-area director of applications for the IETF, on the MARID group’s email list. “Despite early hopes of success…the group remains divided on very basic issues.”

E-mail authentication is meant to help stop phishing and spoofing by confirming that an email’s purported sender did, indeed, send the message. The technology is thought to be a first step toward combating the spam problem.

Margaret Olson, technology committee chair of the E-Mail Service Providers Coalition, said the shutdown was no surprise given the lack of consensus. “From an email marketer’s point of view, the breakup of MARID will cause some temporary confusion,” she said, “but other than that, nothing has changed. The ESPC and others will continue to work together to evolve the authentication infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, the ESPC, along with the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and its Association for Interactive Marketers (AIM) subsidiary, recommend members comply with both Microsoft’s Sender ID technology and the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) standard.

“Earlier indications were that compliance with only one of these standards would be necessary to authenticate your email across several ISPs,” said Jordan Cohen, manager of public policy for the DMA. “Now, it will be necessary to get into compliance with both.”

America Online recently said it would continue with its plans to implement SPF checking, rather than proceeding with testing of the Sender ID protocol. AOL will soon begin requiring senders on its whitelist to publish SPF records.

Microsoft, for its part, is widely expected to soon begin Sender ID checking on both Hotmail and MSN, though the company didn’t respond to inquiries about its plans. Earthlink said it publishes SPF records, but didn’t divulge plans for inbound checking. Yahoo, which has its own DomainKeys proposal, didn’t respond to inquiries by press time.

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