VeriSign Rebuffs ICANN on Redirects

VeriSign said Monday that it will stand pat on its SiteFinder redirect service, despite requests from ICANN and other groups to suspend the service.

VeriSign Inc. will not back down on its SiteFinder redirect service launched last week despite a call from the overseer of Internet domain system for the company to voluntarily suspend the service.

Spokesman Tom Galvin told on Monday that VeriSign has no plans to suspend the service and is happy with its success, having directed 65 million visitors so far to SiteFinder when they mistype a Web address or enter a nonexistent one in the .com or .net domains. Once at SiteFinder, users receive search results and paid advertisements rather than the well-known "page not found" error.

According to Galvin, VeriSign also has decided to form a technical advisory committee made up of a half dozen or so Internet leaders who will examine the long-term technical direction of the service.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Friday called on VeriSign to suspend the service as it and other governing bodies review the technical and policy implications of the redirect service. ICANN, based in Marina Del Ray, Calif., requested a report from its Security and Stability Advisory Committee, which is expected later this week, said spokeswoman Mary Hewitt. The company is also conducting a legal review of its .com and .net registry agreements

ICANN on Monday posted a statement from Russell Lewis, executive vice president and general manager of VeriSigns naming and directory services, in which he wrote that it would be "premature" to suspend the service.

ICANN also sought advice from the Internet Architecture Board, which on Friday posted an analysis that warned against registries using Domain Name System wildcards for redirects without understanding the full technical implications.

Other domain-name registrys use redirects. Country codes .tv and .cc use them as does the ICANN-approved .museum domain, but all three domains have much more limited uses than .com or .net, Hewitt said.

In addition, VeriSign is not the first company to launch redirects. Popular search engines and portals such as Microsoft Corp.s MSN use redirects. However, VeriSigns move has raised concerns about privacy and the technical underpinning of the domain system itself because VeriSign manages the most popular domain names.

"We obviously respect their opinion and continue to work with them," Galvin said of ICANN. "We are very pleased that the service is being used so much and that the click-throughs are good. At this point, the most appropriate step is to continue to make progress on the technical issues." VeriSign expects to release the names of the members of the technical review committee later this week and to receive advice from it within the next few weeks, Galvin said. Meanwhile, VeriSign last week was sued over SiteFinder. Popular Enterprises LLC filed a lawsuit in a Florida federal court that claims antitrust violations and seeks the shutting down of SiteFinder. Popular Enterprises owns search engine Netster, which has service that competes with SiteFinder. (For more information see VeriSign—In the Crosshairs.)

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