At The Email Authentication Implementation Summit in New York City last week, several major ISPs surprised attendees with their announcement that they are jointly backing a single authentication standard.
Yahoo!, Cisco, EarthLink, AOL, and Microsoft got together and announced they are submitting a new authentication solution, DomainKeys Identified Mail to the Internet Engineering Task Force for approval as a standard. This is big news. To date, these groups have been at odds over authentication, with each promoting their own authentication techniques. While it is likely that each will continue to support its own standard for now (Microsoft with Sender ID, AOL with SPF and Yahoo! with the original DomainKeys), we can expect that they all will begin to use this common standard over the coming years if it is adopted by the IETF.
DomainKeys Identified Mail differs from the original DomainKeys and other proposed authentication standards in that, it not only certifies the origin of a message, it certifies that the content has not been altered in transit. This eliminates the possibility that a message could be intercepted and have its contents changed, yet still be authenticated as having come from the company claiming to have sent the message.
At the conference, Microsoft also urged the ESPs to have Sender ID fully implemented by the holiday season if at all possible. Since proper implementation will in most cases require coordinating with clients' IT departments, a four-to-five month turnaround may be optimistic.
Overall, the existence of this conference is a great sign for the future of email and email marketing. The fact that so many diverse attendees were converging on a common vision is even more exciting.