ESPC to Pow-Wow With Redmond on Sender ID

Members of the E-mail Service Provider Coalition (ESPC) will head to Redmond, Washington later this month for a summit on the Sender ID authentication protocol at Microsoft’s headquarters.

The event is intended to provide a forum in which large email senders will learn how to publish email that conforms the Sender ID framework. It will also give them a forum to express their concerns about its complexity.

Sender ID aims to add an identity element to email, seen as key to the elimination of spoofing, phishing and spam. It was created through the convergence of Sender Policy Framework (SPF), the brainchild of Meng Weng Wong, and technology authored by Microsoft.

The merged specification calls for an XML format, which makes it much more complicated than SPF. While hailing Sender ID as an important step toward authentication, many senders have expressed chagrin about its complexity. In addition to obtaining the knowledge needed to authenticate their mailings under Sender ID, attendees at the upcoming summit also hope to address the difficulties inherent in the protocol and influence the shape it takes.

“Sender ID is not simple,” said ESPC Executive Director Trevor Hughes. “We definitely plan to engage in a dialogue at this meeting. There are still implementation challenges that we need to work through with Sender ID, and we’re going there to help them understand how the legitimate sending community sends mail.”

Hughes shied away from speculating on how much wiggle room might be possible in the formation of the new specification, but he insisted his constituents in the marketing community should take heart in the fact that the ESPC will be sitting at the table with Sender ID’s authors.

“Marketers should be greatly encouraged by the fact that these types of meetings are happening,” he said. “This is really an email wonk conference, and this will move sender ID forward significantly. We represent 250,000 senders in U.S… an enormous footprint in an otherwise incredibly fragmented space. Our organization has been focusing on the need for authenticated email for nearly two years and we’re thrilled to offer this summit as a forum for our members to participate in the launch of workable solutions.”

The event will feature panels consisting of its members, plus seal providers like TRUSTe, anti-spam vendors and other companies. Presenters include representatives of Microsoft, the ESPC, IronPort, Sendmail and VeriSign.

The Anti-Spam Technical Alliance, which includes Yahoo, Microsoft, EarthLink and America Online, has thrown its support behind email authentication, as has the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC plans to sponsor an authentication summit this fall, and AOL has said it will begin to require its whitelist members to publish SPF records by the end of this summer.

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