Microsoft’s plans to tackle spam with its SenderID initiative were delayed this month when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) refused to proceed with the technology in its current form. SenderID aims to make it easier to authenticate the source of an email, and while this is unlikely to entirely eliminate spam, it could go a long way to combating email fraud because falsifying the sender details of emails would become impossible. Microsoft wants to make SenderID into a web-wide standard technology as part of a multi-faceted anti-spam drive. The IETF is the body charged with ratifying and documenting standards used on the web. The organisation has refused to endorse SenderID because it is concerned about patent restrictions placed on certain portions of the technology by Microsoft, which would make widespread adoption of the standard difficult.

Microsoft is insistent that this does not spell the end for SenderID, claiming that the framework has essentially been accepted and that portions of the technology it holds patents for can simply be replaced with alternative mechanisms to avoid licensing issues and give users more choice.

Jamie Cowper, senior technology consultant at messaging security vendor Mirapoint commented ”Although it appears to move forward at a snail’s pace in adopting new standards, there is a method to the IETF’s madness and that is to review every proposed standard to ensure industry-wide buy-in and protect against corporate agendas underlying these standard efforts. In this case, some members of the IETF and open source communities have concerns with Microsoft’s proposal. Considering the ubiquitous nature of email communications, the global impact of a new SMTP protocol standard warrants this diligence on the IETF’s part.”

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