Spam, spam, spam, spam…

I’ve just read that some patents for email authentication were loosened up, which is great. With any luck, this means that a lot less spam will be flinging around the internet in a year or two.

There are of course two main schemes for cutting down on junk mail: better authentication of the person claiming to have sent the mail, and making it difficult (i.e., expensive) to send out mass mail at all. These both have their place, but in general I think the first approach is going to work better over the long term.

Of course, authentication methods need to be widely used before they do any good, and the best and most popular methods for proving that an email really comes from the person it seems to are all encumbered by software patents, making it unavailable to open source users. Now, the people who own the relevant patents (mostly Yahoo and Microsoft) have promised to remove almost all the conditions on their use, meaning they can be used by the rest of us. For example, Microsoft seems to basically be saying that anyone not currently suing them for patent infringement regarding this technology, gets to do whatever they want with it. And so, four days ago, the first piece of software that implements all this was uploaded to Debian.

I still think assigning a patent to software is a dubious concept, but I’m glad that thus far this particular case is working itself out. Death to spam!