Verisign—In the Crosshairs

The caretaker of domain names has been hit with an anti-trust lawsuit.

Verisign, which some critics charge has a monopolistic position as the caretaker of Web domains, was hit with a lawsuit late this week charging that its controversial new SiteFinder service unfairly redirects requests for wrongly named Web addresses. The suit was filed in federal court in Florida by Popular Enterprises LLC, which owns search engine site The suit claims antitrust violations and contains a request for Verisigns SiteFinder service to be shut down. Netster has a competitive service to SiteFinder called SmartBrowse.

One of the most famous "does not compute" equivalents is the long-standing "404 error, page not found" error that Web servers deliver to indicates that a Web address does not exist. Verisigns new SiteFinder service, launched on Monday of this week, handles wrongly named .com and .net domain addresses by serving up, among other responses, a page of redirect links to pay-for-placement sites. For example, typing the URL into a browsers address bar causes Verisigns SiteFinder to return a list of close equivalents, including, but SiteFinder also serves up a list of pay-for-placement site links. The issue Verisign has become embroiled in surrounds what the appropriate response is to a wrongly named Web request, and whether the company could exploit its navigational redirections to make money and possibly invade privacy.

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