LiveMessage To Spam: We've Got RSS Support

by Hinesh Jethwani    Jul 09, 2004

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) — the next generation XML format for distributing dynamic, frequently updated content on the Web — could be an effective tool for legalizing the process of sending mass mailers and allow businesses to send legitimate marketing content, which would otherwise be branded as spam.

Sensing the tremendous potential that RSS presents, many companies want to use RSS feeds as faceless carriers of their sales pitches.

MessageCast Inc. is leading the front to cash in on the RSS wave. The company is developing a new technology that will help enterprises channel legitimate marketing campaigns to opt-in recipients, eliminating the risk of coming under the spam umbrella. The company is doing something really interesting with IM networks — or “real-time” networks, as it prefers to call them. Besides desktop alerts, MessageCast will also move email and SMS traffic over these networks - making it the first company to take this unique broadcast approach.

In an exclusive with CXOtoday, Royal P. Farros, CEO, MessageCast, Inc. (USA), explained his company’s strategy to use RSS as a next generation communication tool.

“We get to take advantage of the presence detection on these networks, which means we are a magnitude more effective at getting messages across to people. These networks are also authenticated — which in combination with us making the opt-in/opt-out process 100% controlled by the user — results in a spam-proof mechanism,” said Farros.

Since XML acceptance is moving slower than expectations, will RSS solutions catch on? Farros replied, “New statistics say that 40-50% of the average house list is getting blocked, and even 15-25% of opt-in lists are getting blocked. So there’s powerful incentive for marketers to find a better solution. Meanwhile, the customer revolt is already happening. RSS usage is snowballing. People are just plain tired of Spam. These two things together are the making for a significant shift to RSS within the next 12 months or so.”

However, XML based communication doesn’t necessarily imply the installation of RSS Readers on every recipients desktop. “RSS Readers are useful but remember that you don’t need one to receive RSS information. Our technology, LiveMessage, is an example of this. We let customers tell us how they’d like to receive information, whether getting a desktop alert, a cell text message, or even email,” Farros clarified.

“We have worked closest with Microsoft over the past year to create an easy on-ramp onto real-time networks. That includes RSS feeds. The idea is to sidestep traditional email and use these networks, like MSN or Yahoo!, as a way around spam, especially with important or time-sensitive messages,” explained Farros.

As traditional SMTP email is a “fire & forget” protocol, nothing is authenticated and email spammers don’t even need a valid email account to plug in a server and fire off billions of spam messages. But with real-time networks, one has be a registered user both to send and receive a message. And messages move one at a time from each account. Send too many messages, and the network owners (MSN, AOL or Yahoo!) shut it down.

“We have further controls in place so we cannot become a spam tool. We host the broadcast application and can shut down users who turn out to be spammers. We also enable users to remain anonymous so when they opt-in for messages with a company or publishers, they aren’t giving information used to build emailing lists. Instead, we carry the traffic from the company and deliver it to the back gate, so to speak, of the networks, which then route messages to end user,” clarified Farros.

And what does Farros think about Microsoft’s role in the crusade against Spam?

“In some ways substantial. In other ways misguided. But ultimately, since they control both technology and customers, very powerful. They are big backers of “bonded” mechanisms. Also, of trying to tack on authentication to SMTP, both are important but could take a backseat to simply driving e-communication across their real-time network, which is already in place, already populated, and already has authentication. Plus a bunch of additional benefits like the presence detection. Our technology, LiveMessage, works across these real-time networks, which is what makes it unique,” stressed Farros.

First started by Netscape as part of the My Netscape site as an RDF format, the original RSS version 0.90 was designed by Netscape as a format for building portals of headlines to stream news sites real time.

MessageCast is currently operating on the Microsoft Alerts and Jabber platforms. Support for other popular real-time platforms such as the Yahoo! network (Yahoo! Instant Messenger), and IBM/Lotus Sametime network is planned soon.

All MessageCast products can either operate behind-the-firewall (licensed product) or as a hosted service.

“We will soon begin beta testing an RSS edition of our products for bloggers. They and larger publishers, ultimately, will be able to invite subscribers to receive instant notice that they’ve added fresh postings,” concluded Farros.

Tags: RSS