Editor’s Note: What Matters Most

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

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

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


Other Notes:

  • I downloaded and installed SP2 on my wife’s XP machine last
    week. The installation is still running, 6 days later. SIX
    DAYS!?!? My new project is to finally migrate her machine over to
    Linux. This is just too much.
  • I was in the doctor’s office this afternoon, and I saw Linux
    prominently displayed in two ads and an article in a two-week-old
    edition of BusinessWeek. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy.
  • Tin-foil hat time: Did anyone else note that Microsoft’s new
    Get the Facts campaign will be aimed at Red Hat, Novell, IBM,
    and… and… hey! What about Sun? They don’t rate? Gee, I wonder
  • Yesterday, the “ZDNet UK:
    Firefox 1.0PR: A First Look
    ” story was my 15,000th article
    posted on Linux Today. Not bad for a country boy from Indiana.

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