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by Franki

As much as Microsoft hate to admit it, most of the Internets email runs on Open Source software, in fact, based on this MTA statistics site, Open Source software accounts for over 56.5 percent of mail server software in use on the Internet. (Compared to around 20% for Microsoft )

Now comes the interesting part of the story. The only real worldwide effort to tackle the SPAM problem thus far is MADRID an ITEF standards group. MADRID stands for “MTA Authorization Records in DNS” and it’s basically a way of making sure that email from a specific domain comes only from a server authorised to send mail for that domain. (Most SPAM nowadays comes from desktop PC’s with their own spamming MTA software, bypassing the ISP’s authorised mail server. The other half of the worlds SPAM comes from desktop PC’s infected with Virus and Trojan horse programs.) Anyway, if all of the worlds mail servers were using this technology, it would be extremely difficult for a spammer to use normal desktop PC’s to send SPAM. That, is a noble and worthy aspiration, and it has to happen before email becomes useless as a communication medium.

Even Microsoft has gotten in on the act, by helping to combine MADRID with their own “callerID for email” system to give an extra level of protection. There is a problem though, Microsoft couldn’t help themselves and had to get a patent on their callerID idea, and that patent (or more importantly, the licence they are granting for its use) is not compatible with the open source mail server programs running most of the worlds email systems.

The problem is, that for this system to be really effective, it has to be on the majority of the worlds mail servers, most of which are running Sendmail, (an open source MTA) as well as Qmail, Postfix and a couple of others. If these open source programs are not updated to support the technology, it will flop. And as it stands now, the Microsoft license will not allow them to incorporate caller ID into their program and offer it for free download as they do now. (I imagine users would have to arrange a license on a case by case basis with Microsoft, which if true is totally unacceptable.)

It’s time for Microsoft to put their money where their mouth is. They want to play a part in stopping the SPAM deluge, but they can’t do it while trying to force sales of their own software by blocking Open Source MTA’s from using the technology. Microsoft does NOT have the monopoly grip on mail server software that it has on the desktop, a situation they don’t seem to have grasped yet.

Richard Stallman, seen by many as the father of Open Source, recently jumped into the fray with this message to the MADRID mailing list. In it he says he has been expecting this to happen ever since Microsoft started talking about stopping SPAM, and that Microsoft is hoping it’s patented callerID feature will become part of the standard so that Microsoft can use it to block open source software from being part of the effort. Thereby forcing companies to buy a Microsoft product instead. (This is a well known MS tactic known as “Embrace, extend and extinguish“)

This will hurt the anti-SPAM effort and ironically it will probably hurt Microsoft as well, as I said earlier they don’t have the monopoly on Internet mail servers, not by a long shot, not only that, but Sendmail has been around for something like 20 years, it’s proven and well supported and it is not likely to be “Exchanged” (no pun intended) for Microsoft’s Exchange or IIS/SMTP software, which is far more expensive then the open source variants. (Not only that, but most of the Internets servers are Unix or Linux variants, for which no Microsoft product exists). So the only thing that will happen here, unless Microsoft drops the license (in its current form), is that this new fledgling standard, or at least its caller ID components will be ignored by OSS mail server programs, which will render the caller ID system mostly ineffective.

So, Microsoft need to ask themselves what is more important; satisfying the needs of their desktop customers (by helping to stop spam), or the chance of getting that extra few million in turnover (by trying to force people to use Windows mail servers)? If they answer wrongly then they should have no further input into the worldwide open anti-SPAM effort.



2 Responses to “Microsoft patent holds up SPAM blocking effort.”

  1. Kelowna Dentists Says:

    Thanks for keeping people up on what’s happening.

    Kelowna Dentists

  2. subway surfers Says:

    This is a good idea, thank you for sharing. I will consult carefully before deciding to register!

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