Microsoft Opens Sender ID Standard

Microsoft is making greater portions of its Sender ID framework, a security standard designed to ensure that e-mails come from legitimate sources, available under its Open Specification Promise (OSP) program.

At one time, the standard — which is used alone or in combination with others by most of the major ISP providers — was seen as a viable tool for stemming the flow of spam by addressing domain spoofing. Microsoft has been pushing wider adoption of this standard since its first incarnation.

However, intellectual property questions arose two years ago about possible patent claims Microsoft might be likely to make over the application. After that, the likelihood that Sender ID would provide the platform for an industrywide standard diminished amid fears by some developers that Microsoft would go after them for royalties.

An Open Promise

Those fears have been laid to rest with Microsoft’s announcement that its Sender ID framework specification for e-mail authentication is now available under the company’s Open Specification Promise — an irrevocable pledge, it says, that developers can make use of the technology “easily and for free.”

“There have been lingering questions from some members of the development community about the licensing terms from Microsoft and how those terms may affect their ability to implement Sender ID,” said Brian Arbogast, corporate vice president of the Windows Live Platform Development Group at Microsoft. “By putting Sender ID under the Open Specification Promise, our goal is to put those questions to rest and advance interoperable efforts for online safety worldwide.”

With this action, Microsoft has basically freed the concept and code of Sender ID for the Internet community to build upon, said Chip House, the deliverability expert for e-mail provider ExactTarget.

Competing Standards

It remains to be seen, however, whether it becomes the de facto or official standard for e-mail authentication. There are other competing standards to Sender ID, House noted.

In Microsoft’s favor, though, is wide industry support for the standard. In April it was approved by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as an experimental Request for Comment (RFC), according to Microsoft. Additionally, it already has a critical mass of users. More than 5 million domain holders have adopted Sender ID, according to Arbogast.

“It is always a mystery why one standard is adopted — in any technology — over another,” ExactTarget’s House told TechNewsWorld. This step by Microsoft is not the end of the story, “but it certainly furthers the cause.”

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