The technology, called "Caller ID for E-mail," is an Internet Protocol-based method to ensure that the sender's return e-mail address is authentic. Many spammers have used a method called "spoofing," which makes their return addresses appear legitimate to the recipient's spam filters. Often, people open unwanted spam, thinking it originated from a contact, which could lead to the further dissemination of viruses and user annoyance.
Microsoft plans to file its proposal to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), an industry standards body, either this week or next.
"It's imminent," Microsoft spokesman Sean Sundwall said.
The company's expected submission comes soon after Yahoo submitted its own e-mail authentication proposal on Tuesday to the IETF. The technology, called DomainKeys, tries to achieve the same objective as Caller ID, but through a different system. DomainKeys matches digital signatures between the e-mail and the server to gain admittance into a person's in-box.
"We believe it is critical to work closely with standards bodies and the Internet community when developing promising new e-mail technologies, such as DomainKeys and IP-based solutions," Miles Libbey, anti-spam product manager for Yahoo Mail, said in an e-mail statement.
America Online also is testing e-mail authentication technology called Sender Permitted From, or SPF. Like Caller ID, SPF lets Internet service providers check the authenticity of incoming e-mail by verifying it with records stemming from the DNS (Domain Name System) database.
While all three companies are testing or endorsing separate technologies, these efforts are not yet considered competitive. Microsoft's Sundwall and AOL spokesman Nicholas Graham said the companies are working together to test both systems and achieve some common ground.
"AOL will evaluate and test CallerID--along with other proposals--in our ongoing effort to establish some much-needed e-mail identity on the Internet," Graham said in a statement.
Still, efforts by Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and EarthLink, which joined together in 2003 to come up with a common antispam standard, have been bogged down by the many different proposals for standardization.
Microsoft's Sundwall, however, said the different proposals can work together. He said DomainKeys would act as an additional line of defense set up by Caller ID or SPF technology.
"It's a next level of authentication that we agree has to happen," Sundwall said about DomainKeys.
Reuters contributed to this report.