Yahoo! Turns Anti-Spam

Gretchen Gallen
SUNNYVALE, Calif. -- Yahoo Inc. made a pledge Friday to develop a new technology to combat spam. The Internet portal is proposing the development of a new software called "Domain Keys" that would require a process of authentication from an email sender.

Yahoo announced that Domain Keys will be released sometime in 2004 and that it will be free for all developers of open source email systems. By making the technology free and with limited restrictions, Yahoo is hoping to attract some of the larger email providers and eventually effect change within an industry that has been hard-hit by spam.

According to Reuters, Yahoo's proposed plan is to completely alter the way the Internet works when it comes to the authentication of email and to take the not-knowingness out of who is really behind unauthorized emails.

Once Domain Keys is installed, a system sending an email would contain an embedded private key in the message header. The receiving system would check the Domain Name System (DNS) for the public key registered to the sending domain.

According to Reuters, if the public key is able to decrypt the private key embedded in the header, then the email can be delivered. If not, then the message is blocked.

There is some skepticism that the software could incur sweeping changes in the world of email, however, even if a few of the big name email providers incorporate Domain Keys into their systems, it could significantly lessen the amount of unwanted emails that haunt most users.

"If we can get only a small percentage of the industry to buy in, we think it can have a dent," Brad Garlinghouse, vice president of communications products for Yahoo, told Reuters.

"One of the core problems with spam is we don't know, Yahoo doesn't know, the user doesn't know ... if it really came from the party who it says it came from," he continued. "What we're proposing here is to re-engineer the way the Internet works with regard to the authentication of e-mail."