It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Jesse David (J.D.) Falk, a highly regarded and long time contributor to CircleID.
J.D. worked on email, anti-spam systems and policies for more than fifteen years including collaboration with influential companies such as the original Mail Abuse Prevention System, Microsoft, and Yahoo! as well as anti-abuse non-profits such as MAAWG, CAUCE, and the IETF.
Please feel free to share your thoughts and memories on this page dedicated to J.D. via the comment form below. Please also visit http://www.jdfalkmemorial.org prepared by J.D.'s friends and colleagues.
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by Matt Blumberg, Return Path's CEO
This is the hardest thing I've ever had to write in 12 years as Return Path's CEO. I hope it never has an equal.
One of our long-time employees, J.D. Falk, passed away today after a year-long struggle with cancer. J.D., which most people don't know was short for Jesse David, was only 37 years old. Although I cannot claim to be a close friend of J.D.'s, I have known him fairly well in the industry going back about eight years, and he has been a trusted member of our team here for the last four+ years.
J.D. did great work for us at Return Path, but my admiration for him goes beyond that. I admire him first for his willingness to work for the common good as much as, or even more than, his own good. J.D.'s tireless pro-bono work with anti-abuse non-profits MAAWG, CAUCE, and the IETF complemented the work he did here for a salary. And although he had a very positive and enduring impact on us at Return Path in terms of how we run our business and think about the delicate balance between email senders and receivers, he had an even bigger, broader impact through his standards work, papers, and tireless work on event programming and committee chairmanship. He did all that work not for money, not for thanks, but because it was, he felt, the right thing to do.
I also admire J.D. tremendously for his extremely principled, but thoughtfully considered, approach to life. His principles around internet users are well known and very "Cluetrain." And yet, in a world increasingly filled with people whose opinions are intransigent, he was always open-minded and willing to engage in productive dialog with people who had different points of view than his own, sometimes changing his own thoughts and actions as a result of those conversations. That quality is all-too-rare in today's society.
J.D.'s wife Hope told me a great story that sums up the fiber of J.D.'s being earlier this week. Just last weekend, from his hospital bed, J.D. realized that he and Hope had concert tickets they would be unable to use because of his illness, so he wanted to give them to friends. However, the tickets were only in electronic form on J.D.'s work laptop. Hope said, "J.D., just give me your password, and I'll go home and print them out so we can give them away." His response? "I can't give you my password — that's against company policy, but bring the laptop here to the hospital, and I can log in myself and forward you the tickets."
Today is a sad day for me and for all 300 of us at Return Path as we lose a friend and colleague for the first time in our company's history. And of course today is a sad day for the anti-abuse community that J.D. has been such an integral part of for his entire career. But more than that, today is a sad day for the internet and for the billions of humans that use it — sadder in some ways because they don't even know that one of the people integrally involved in keeping it safe for them has left us.
I will post again as soon as I can with details of the memorial service for J.D. as well as details of where to make some kind of donation or contribution in his honor.
J.D. Falk worked on email and anti-spam systems and policies for more than fifteen years, including such influential companies as the original Mail Abuse Prevention System, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. While at Microsoft, J.D. devised network-level anti-spam technology which cut the level of inbound spam connections in half — at least for a little while. At Yahoo!, he worked closely with the creators of DomainKeys and DKIM, and managed the creation of their outbound and inbound compliant feedback loop systems. J.D. was also active in policy matters as a long-time board member of the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), and was very active in the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) since 2005; he was MAAWG's Document Editor, and filled Return Path's seat on the Board of Directors. Later in his life J.D. moved from the sidelines to participate in the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), primarily in the DKIM and MARF working groups. Along with writing for Return Path, J.D.'s articles have been featured on CircleID as well as CAUCE, and IEEE Internet Computing magazine. He was the initial instigator and remained the only non-anonymous contributor to the curated linkblog Box of Meat.