WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Internet companies have begun to change the way
e-mail works in order to weed out spam, but experts on Tuesday clashed
over whether the underlying technology should be controlled by any one
At a meeting hosted by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, advocates of
open-source technology questioned whether a standard patented by
Microsoft Corp. should be incorporated into the fabric of the
Internet, where free, open-source software has long dominated.
Others said they didn't care which standard was adopted as long as it
provided a way to highlight legitimate e-mail in a sea of spam,
estimated by Microsoft to be 80-85 percent of total email traffic.
"We want to make sure our guys have the ability to communicate with
their consumers, period," said Louis Mastria, spokesman for the Direct
Marketing Association, which represents 5,000 bulk mailers.
Senders of unsolicited spam and deceptive "phishing" attacks commonly
use fake addresses to slip through content filters. Microsoft
officials estimate that 81 percent of all mail coming into its Hotmail
system is "spoofed" in this way.
Microsoft and companies like Cisco Systems Inc. have developed
different methods to verify e-mail to determine that a message from,
for example, email@example.com actually comes from example.com's mail
E-mail providers like Time Warner Inc. have begun to test Microsoft's
standard, which is invisible to everyday users.
Yahoo and Cisco's approaches are more technically demanding and will
take longer to implement.
Microsoft has sought to combine its proposal with another popular
standard developed by entrepreneur Meng Wong, but splits appeared in
September when open-source advocates said they were reluctant to use
Microsoft-patented technology, even though the dominant software
company said it would not charge for its use.
David Kaefer of Microsoft said the patent "sets up a legal framework
for people to do business with one another, for people to not end up
in a situation where they end up in legal disputes."
But the Apache software used by most Web servers has flourished
without patents, said Daniel Quinlan, vice president of Apache
Harvard University's Scott Bradner said the legal language put forward
by Microsoft clouded what should have been a technical discussion
among engineers looking for a reliable standard.
"The license was written in lawyer, it wasn't written in human," he
Microsoft has since revised its standard and won the support of
technology companies including Sendmail Inc., whose open-source
software is widely used to run e-mail systems.
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