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How will email marketers benefit from the new technology?
Microsoft= , AOL and Yahoo! have all introduced separate sender authentication solutions to reduce spam emails, despite signing an agreement last year to work together= on the problem.
Authentic= ating the identity of email senders is the sharpest, shiniest new weapon in the f= ight against unsolicited messaging. Microsoft's proposal, Caller ID, works by re= cipient email servers checking the IP address or domain of an email against a list = of addresses published by the sender. If it isn't on the list, the email will = be identified as spam.
AOL is trialling Sender Policy Framework, which works in a similar way, while Yaho= o! has developed DomainKeys, which matches 'signatures' on a message heading to signatures on the purported sender's server.
They prev= ent domain spoofing, a practice that avoids spam filters by assuming someone el= se's sender address. Fraudsters use it to go 'phishing', extracting money from credit cards, say, by sending emails they pretend are from the card owners' bank.
Publishin= g IP address information could affect some businesses, such as email forwarding companies. Ken Schneider, the CTO of Brightmail, the leading email security software developer which is working with Microsoft on Caller ID, explains: “Email authentication may require certain changes in email behaviour – especially those cases where email is being sent from an IP address= not associated with the sending domain.”
While the Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo! technology is being trailed, the security company MailKey already has a solution in the market: SenderID, a protocol that runs tests on incoming emails. Although MailKey will sell SenderID with its Mess= age Manager package, it hopes other software companies will use the protocol for their own applications. If all servers can use SenderID, or similar technol= ogy of their own, “it will kill identity theft and spoofing,” accor= ding to the chief operating officer David Dobson.
Mail at Risk
This should interest businesses that use email marketing, because spoofers = can use their addresses to deliver spam. As Dobson at MailKey puts it, “T= he danger is that people will not respond to any communication, no matter how legitimate it looks, for fear of infecting their computer, losing money or being prone to some other kind of abuse.”
Spoofing = aside, businesses that follow the recent legislation on privacy and electronic communications should be able to reach their customers without any problems= .
But some industry figures argue that the sheer volume of spam has made customers less trustful and interested in legitimate mail. Robert Dirskovski, head of interactive media at the Direct Marketing Association, believes email marke= ters have already lost the battle – that their messages are considered together with unsolicited messages as junk mail. He argues that instead of trying to differentiate opt-in practices from intrusive mail and malware, t= he industry should focus on reducing the volume of spam. And that's where the technology comes in.
The reaction to sender authentication technology has been positive. Legitim= ate marketers believe it will hold their illegitimate peers to account. Industry bodies welcome the emphasis on technology, rather than legislation, which is harder to implement across borders. And ISPs look forward to any reduction = in spam, which takes up much of their time and resources. = p>
But is the proliferation of sender authentication software the best way forward? Neil Morris, deputy managing director of the Institute of Direct Marketing, says, “There are already too many alternate offerings in the online chain t= hat make it very difficult for businesses, as senders, particularly SMEs, and customers, as recipients, to understand what's going on.”<= /span>
Gartner research director Arabella Hellawell agrees. She has criticised so many technologies being developed, saying, “These multiple specifications = will impede adoption, as will the need to introduce new inter-enterprise practic= es and technology upgrades.”
It makes = sense for US companies to develop the technology: most spam comes from the US. But many people would rather see an industry-wide collaboration, and are unnerv= ed that Microsoft is already offering a patent licence for Caller ID. What hap= pens over the next few months is critical. If the new proposals prove compatible= , or can be whittled down through testing, they should become worthy weapons aga= inst spam. Better still, they could help protect the medium of email marketing, which small businesses have come to depend on as a cheap, targeted and measurable way to reach their customers.
H= OT TOPIC: Where do you stand on spam and sender authentication?=
is critical because it forces senders to be accountable. This protects the =
senders and puts the spammers in jeopardy, exactly where they should be.=
Member of the Email Service Provi= der Coalition’s steering committee
concerns are that the very providers of email marketing and ancillary
technology are not necessarily the best people to try and put an end to spa=
don’t doubt their motives, but it’s an invidious position they =
themselves in. It's a bit like Ferrari trying to introduce speed cameras and
Client services director of email marketing firm Inbox
sounds great, but in reality it is very difficult to put into practice. Whi=
reputable companies would be happy to be authenticated and for all mail ser=
that receive mail to be updated to perform the checks, there will be compan=
that do not co-operate and this jeopardises the whole system.”
Head of product futures at communication provider THUS
recipients are already capable of distinguishing between spam and
permission-based emails... it doesn't take long to spot all the variants of
‘Viagra’ in a subject line.”
Email marketing trainer for the Chartered Institute of Marketing<= /p>
eventually realise a solution where ISPs could simply refuse to carry mail =
non-authenticated senders, this would have a significant impact on the leve=
of email traffic that ISPs would need to handle.”
Managing director of business ISP Mistral
that the major ISPs can do to help legitimate, opt-in and permission-based
marketers get in the inbox is obviously welcomed. Over 50 per cent of UK
consumers use Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo! – as one of those consumers I'm=
up with finding junk mail in my inbox and email that I signed up for in my =
Sales director of marketing firm Interactive Prospect Targeting
This article first appeared in Internet Works Issue 84 - June 200= 4