VeriSign Sets Up Panel to Review SiteFinder

VeriSign executives today defended the SiteFinder Internet service that was suspended last week, arguing that it does not destabilize the Internet.

WASHINGTON—VeriSign Inc. executives today defended the SiteFinder Internet service that was suspended last week, arguing that it does not destabilize the Internet and that the company would not profit from the service unless there is a consumer need for it.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) demanded Friday that Verisign shut down SiteFinder, and the company complied reluctantly, executives said this afternoon. VeriSign considers the ICANN position a violation of the Registry Agreement and an anti-competitive interference with its business, the company told ICANN President Paul Twomey, Friday.

In response to criticism that the service interfered with enterprise applications, the Dulles, Va., company set up a technology review panel, which will study the matter. VeriSign had notified ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce of its intent to initiate the service a few days prior to launch, according to Russell Lewis, executive vice president and general manager at VeriSign.

"The three weeks that the service has been live have proven that the Internet hasnt broken," Lewis said, adding that he is trying to figure out how to re-launch the service as quickly as possible. "We werent going to get a fair hearing if we didnt take the service down."

Since SiteFinder was launched Sept. 15, there have been complaints that the program interfered with enterprise applications, including e-mail and spam filters. VeriSign executives said today that cases in which applications were affected were rare, and that they occurred when applications were not written in strict compliance with Interent standards. They downplayed the impact on spam filters, arguing that the affected filters are not an efficient means of combating spam anyway.

Company officials said that the controversy over the service is driven by a small group of technology purists, and that the issue is more about philosophy and approach than about security or technology. Officials argued that the situation demonstrates that the procedures for launching innovative Internet services are cumbersome.

"For us, this is all about a debate on the introduction of new services," Lewis said.

"This is really a test for all of us in the Internet community to decide whether or not the infrastructure can continue to be innovated."

SiteFinder directs users who mistype domain names to a Verisign Web site that prompts them for additional information to find the site sought.