As the competition over digital identities escalates, VeriSign is envisioning a future when it provides identity and electronic addressing services that span the traditional telephony and Web worlds.
VeriSigns $1.2 billion acquisition last week of Illuminet, a 900-customer Signaling System 7 telephone network service provider, is a significant bet on the convergence of the Internet and telephone networks.
Prior to the deal, VeriSign - which operates the Internets dot-com, dot-net and dot-org domain name registries - started developing a service using Enum, an Internet Engineering Task Force specification. Enum translates phone numbers into IP addresses to let users place phone calls from IP devices to regular telephones and vice versa. Experts said Enum could enable companies like VeriSign to run a publicly accessible Whois-like Internet database for telephone numbers, providing White Pages-quality information after a phone number or a name is typed in.
While Enum exists as a technology, until now its applications have existed primarily in the imagination of Internet gurus. "The technology is there and deployed now," said David Conrad, chief technology officer of Nominum, a developer of Domain Name System server software. "But to actually develop applications that make use of that technology simply requires the use of some DNS APIs [Application Programming Interfaces] to issue the queries, get the results and do something useful with them."
VeriSign expects to eventually offer services based on Enum, but it will start with telephony services such as secure short messaging, local phone number portability and Voice-over-IP bridging, according to Robert Korzeniewski, VeriSigns executive vice president of corporate and business development. "Now theres a real opportunity to figure out what the next generation network will look like," Korzeniewski said.
VeriSign is also working on other telephony-oriented services, including WebNum, a numeric site addressing scheme designed for wireless phones, and Global Voice Registry, which would let someone place a call to a business by speaking its name into the phone.