VeriSign Inc., of Mountain View, Calif., ranked the highest in a report released late Monday by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the main oversight body for the domain-name system. ICANN now will begin negotiating a registry agreement with VeriSign, a process that is expected to last about two weeks.
Once an agreement is reached, the selection of VeriSign as the registry for .net could go before ICANNs board of directors as early as its scheduled meeting in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on April 8. ICANN also has begun accepting public comments on the report.
Earlier this year, ICANN tapped Telcordia Technologies Inc. to conduct an independent evaluation of the five .net contenders. Telcordia conducted onsite visits and used a team of technical experts in Asia, Europe and North America for its evaluation.
"The evaluators found that all the vendors have the capabilities to run the .net registry," Telcordia wrote in the report. "The distinguishing characteristics are largely differences in experience, risk and price."
For the first time since its inception, .net was opened this year to competitive bidding among registries. VeriSign gained control of .net in 2000 when it acquired Network Solutions Inc., and Network Solutions had run the domain since 1992.
In January, VeriSign and four other companies submitted bids for the management of .net. The companies included German nonprofit DENIC eG, which manages Germanys .de country code, and Afilias Ltd., which runs .info. Also in the running were two international coalitions. One was a joint venture between NeuLevel Inc., which operates the .biz domain, and Japan Registry Services Co. Ltd., which operates Japans .jp country code, called Sentan Registry Services Inc. The other was the CORE++ Association, an international consortium of registrars plus a telecommunications company.
In the Telcordia report, Sentan fell a close second to VeriSign. Afilias came in third, followed by DENIC and CORE++, respectively.
VeriSign welcomed the news that it was the top choice of the evaluators and said that it will enter negotiations with ICANN to complete the selection process.
"We intend to work with ICANN and the entire Internet community to further strengthen the .net infrastructure by raising the bar on its reliability and stability and by further expanding the infrastructure globally," said Mark McLaughlin, a VeriSign senior vice president, in a statement.
ICANNs current .net registry agreement with VeriSign, reached in 2001, expires at the end of June. In addition to the ICANN board, the U.S. Department of Commerce also must approve ICANNs selection of a .net registry.