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The ORBS/MAPS anti-spam battle revisited

Six of one, half a dozen of the other?

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Since we posted a story repeating allegations made by ORBS anti-spammers that ISP Above.net was purposefully blocking ORBS traffic, apparently to clear the way for a commercial MAPS (also an anti-spammer service and run by Above.net creator Paul Vixie), we have had emails fighting into our inbox.

It's no secret that ORBS and MAPS aren't exactly best friends but the pressure-cooker rivalry became too much, allegations started flying and we are now faced with a partisan split. As one reader stated: "A user's choice of ORBS or MAPS is as religious as their choice of OS."

Despite a largely positive press response to ORBS, its supporters seem the more deranged. It is a simple fact of the Net industry that it is populated with highly loyal but blinkered individuals. Something is either the best in the world or the worst.

As such, it's hard to know whether the accusation that Alan Cox (a pro-ORBS Linux guru whose diary alerted The Reg to the situation) is making "hysterical claims" is made from an anti-ORBS, anti-Linux or anti-Cox standpoint. A lot of the emails are slightly calmer versions of newsgroup crazy rants and words like "conspiracy", "grudge" and "fanatic" have cropped up with alarming regularity.

So what is going on? Well, it's unlikely that we'll ever find out the full details of the current saga, but there is general agreement that it started when ORBS blacklisted MAPS and Above.net. Depending on who you believe this is either totally justified or completely malicious.

Above.net clearly didn't like this much and so added some routing entries to block ORBS traffic. Is it on an all-out ORBS attack mission? ORBS says yes, MAPS and Above.net vaguely deny it and the various supporters bicker. Either ORBS is stupid and melodramatic or Above.net is totally bent on destruction. We'll tell you what we think in a minute.

As for the claims that MAPS is planning to go commercial (thus providing the "motive" in this sorry mess), well, it is either completely false or utterly true. "It's registered as a not-for-profit company!" many claim. Is that an official, legally binding registration? No, we thought not.

One comment which we can't disagree with is that while Alan Cox's opinion has been taken seriously (and true, he was simply repeating ORBS' allegations), the equally significant reputation of Paul Vixie (the man that ties Above.net with MAPS) has been overlooked. Oh, and claims that Above.net and MAPS can't be connected have, we're afraid, fallen on deaf ears.

Okay, so we've gone through what everyone else thinks, what does The Reg think? We reckon, as we said in the sub-head, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. It was a fight both were itching to have and no matter how much either of them put on their cherub faces and swear they did nothing wrong, they are both as guilty as each other.

ORBS more than likely found an open relay system somewhere on Above.net and used this to blacklist the ISP and MAPS for good measure. Understandable, if a little childish. (Incidentally, the different reactive/proactive approaches that MAPS and ORBS use are to us simply a variation on a theme - we think neither ultimately better suited.)

Above.net then over-reacted and it does seem clear that it is partaking of a rather pointed attack on ORBS and its traffic. ORBS' apparent claim that this is putting it out of business is bunkem. As for MAPS planning to become an all-mighty profit-making conglomerate - we don't buy it. It's too easy an argument and it presses the right button a little too strongly. We've been sniffing around these commercial claims all day and we see nothing more than an intention to scrape a little money off big corporations. A Microsoft it ain't.

Alan Cox - we don't even want to go there. We get enough email from Linux fanatics already.

Paul Vixie? Well, yes, he is a smart cookie. But he simply isn't the people-loving hero that many would wish us to believe. Christ, if you get anywhere in this industry you have a brain, a steel nerve and the balls to back both up. And let's not forget the court order against MAPS which prevents it from blacklisting Yesmail.com.

All in all, this is a spat. Hopefully the concerned parties will all calm down and recognise that they have more to lose by bashing each other than they have to gain.

Still, good viewing, no? ®

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