WinInfo Daily UPDATE, March 24, 2003


This weekend, Microsoft revealed that the company has limited a feature of its MSN Hotmail service to better combat spam, or junk email. Effective immediately, Hotmail subscribers are limited to sending 100 email messages each day--far more messages than most Hotmail users send. However, that limit will help Microsoft prevent spammers from using the service to spread junk mail. This tactic follows a similar change last year that prevented Hotmail users from sending email messages to more than 50 people at a time.

Microsoft says that only 1 percent of Hotmail and MSN users regularly send 100 or more email messages a day, so the change will likely affect relatively few customers. But the change should have an awesome effect on spammers, who regularly use the free service to ferry bulk email around the Internet. Microsoft has come under fire regularly during the past few years for harboring a safe haven for spammers. Beginning in 2002, Microsoft started fighting back, and its MSN 8 email client was the company's first product to include sophisticated spam controls. Microsoft will include the same technology, developed by Microsoft Research and similar to the Bayesian junk-mail filters in products such as Mozilla 1.3 and Apple Computer's Mail for Mac OS X, in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, the company told me recently.

With more than 120 million email customers using Hotmail and MSN, Microsoft has a tougher job controlling unwanted email than most companies, especially considering that spam has increased more than 500 percent since late 2001. Other large email providers, such as AOL and Yahoo!, are also working to decrease the amount of spam delivered through their networks, and AOL included spam controls in its most recent client, AOL 8.


Two Microsoft executives who joined the inaugural session of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) panel on Web services just 2 weeks ago have already quit the standards body, raising questions about the software giant's desire to create interoperable technologies. Allen Brown and Greg Meredith joined the group, attended the first meeting on March 13, then abruptly resigned. W3C spokespeople expressed confusion and disappointment about the decision.

"I am totally mystified as to why Microsoft has decided to withdraw from the group," Steve Ross-Talbot, cochairman of the working group, told "InfoWorld" last week. "When \[the Microsoft representatives\] attended during the face-to-face last week, they both made outstanding contributions to the group in a very short space of time. They presented a position ... that was totally in keeping with the stated focus of this group as per the charter. I am at a loss to understand why Microsoft should withdraw after such a positive and valuable contribution."

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company sent representatives to the meeting solely to determine the scope of the group's work. When they determined that the group's technology for Web services intercommunications wasn't compatible with Microsoft's proposed technology, they "discontinued participation." Microsoft wants the W3C to ratify a scheme called Business Process Execution Language for Web Services (BPEL4WS), which IBM and BEA Systems jointly support. However, Sun Microsystems has already proposed a separate standard called Web Service Choreography Interface (WSCI). The W3C has stated that whatever implementation is adopted should be royalty-free; Microsoft hasn't committed to that stipulation, although BEA, IBM, and Sun have.

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