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AOL Won't Use Microsoft Anti-Spam Standard

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By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - America Online Inc. on Thursday shunned a Microsoft Corp. proposal to help weed out unwanted "spam" e-mail because Internet engineers are reluctant to adopt technology owned by the dominant software company.


AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX - news), said it would not adopt Microsoft's SenderID protocol because it has failed to win over experts leery of Microsoft's business practices.


"AOL will now not be moving forward with full deployment of the SenderID protocol," AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said in a statement.


The decision is the latest fallout from a dispute between Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT - news) and advocates of free, "open source" software commonly used across the Internet.


Rather than agreeing on one common standard to weed out fake e-mail addresses used by spammers, e-mail providers will be forced to use two slightly differing standards that until recently had been combined as one.


A Microsoft spokesman said the two standards will be identical in nine out of 10 cases.


"It's still going to be one standard, there's just going to be two flavors," Microsoft spokesman Sean Sundwall said.


Spammers often appropriate the e-mail addresses of others in order to slip through content filters, a tactic known as "spoofing."


Several proposals by Microsoft and others would allow Internet providers to check that a message from joe@example.com actually comes from example.com's server computers. Messages that do not match up could be safely rejected as spam.


The technology would be invisible to everyday users.


Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (news - web sites) in January said the technique could help eliminate spam by 2006. Spam currently accounts for up to 83 percent of all e-mail traffic.


Microsoft in May combined its proposal with another developed by entrepreneur Meng Wong and submitted them to the standards-setting Internet Engineering Task Force for approval.


But several key players have said they won't use the standard because Microsoft holds patents on the underlying technology, even though Microsoft has said it won't charge royalties for SenderID.


The Apache Software Foundation, which develops open source software, told the IETF on Sept. 2 that it could not use SenderID under Microsoft's terms.


"We believe the current license is... contrary to the practice of open Internet standards," the group said in an open letter.


AOL said it will continue to use Wong's Sender Policy Framework proposal to check incoming e-mail, and will test other methods as well, such as one proposed by Yahoo Inc. (Nasdaq:YHOO - news) that would use encrypted digital signatures to authenticate e-mail.


AOL will use both standards to send outgoing mail, Graham said.

Microsoft will use SenderID on its Hotmail service starting Oct. 1, Sundwall said.

Why am I not surprised? AOL has its own spam mail, that's probabaly why. ;)

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