Editor's Note: What Matters MostSep 17, 2004, 23:30 (7 Talkback[s])
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By Brian Proffitt
Hey, have you been following this whole Sender ID thing? I have to admit, it tickled me this week that because of the commotion stirred up by the open source community, a number of major players, including AOL, have dropped or are considering dropping the anti-spam protocol from their future plans.
Now, what's funny to me is that for the most part, the stink being raised about Sender ID is not because of the technology, but (from my vantage point) the licensing of said technology. That's extremely interesting, because it strikes me as a sign of much more sophistication on the part of independent vendors as to the whys and wherefores of licensing. On the surface, at least.
Technology was a part of AOL's decision to move away from Sender ID, to be sure. The ISP was concerned that the new Sender ID protocols would not be backwards-compatible with SPF. Apparently, the work being done in the MARID group negated this problem, when a member of the MTA Authentication in DNS (MARID) working group submitted an Internet draft draft-ietf-marid-mailfrom-00) that allows for RFC 2821 "mailfrom" checks in Sender ID.
Still, AOL is sticking to its decision and will be beta testing SPF on their system in just a few weeks.
Keep in mind, AOL does not have huge objections to Microsoft's licensing in and of itself. They didn't mind the license in the past, and they haven't changed their mind. No, what they're worried about is the fact that so many smaller organizations will have to sign off on Microsoft's licence, it will ultimately prevent the widespread adoption of Sender ID.
AOL itself does not care about signing off on such a license, since it would cover their use. But, AOL is reasoning that if a lot of smaller ISPs back at this, then the technology won't become a real standard, regardless of whatever the IETF might say. For them, SPF has not such licensing obstacles, and they figure that if they adopt it, then everyone else will.
Okay, okay, so it's a lame-ass argument for avoiding the technology. They aren't objecting to the license. They just don't want to be the first one in the pool if no one else is jumping in.
Frankly, regardless of the outcome of all of this, I think a very telling message has been sent to the technology world.
Licenses, the message says, matter.
It matters to some companies that they not sign their lives or firstborn away whenever they purchase a new application or bit of software technology. It matters that they can get to the code. Even if they don't know what the heck to do with it. It matters that they can get to it if the need arises.
If licenses matter to more people, this will be a difficult obstacle for proprietary software firms to overcome. "Shared source"-type arrangements may mollify some of their customers, but it seems likely that the only real way a technology will be adopted as a true standard is when licenses are not in the way of that adoption.
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