WATPA: FW: VeriSign Agrees to Suspend Disputed Site Finder Service

From: Norm Jacknis <norm@jacknis.com>
Date: Sat Oct 04 2003 - 17:05:56 EDT

It looks like VeriSign has backed down in the face of public protests.




October 4, 2003
VeriSign Agrees to Suspend Disputed Site Finder Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 - VeriSign Inc., which assigns and administers Web
addresses ending in .com and .net, agreed on Friday to suspend its service
that redirects misspelled Web queries to its own page, bowing to pressure
from an Internet oversight organization.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, had asked
VeriSign to halt its Site Finder service a few days after it started on
Sept. 15, but Verisign initially rejected the request.

On Friday, Paul Twomey, the Icann president, released a letter written to
VeriSign's executive vice president, Russell Lewis, demanding that VeriSign
suspend the Site Finder service by 6 p.m. Saturday because of "numerous
indications that these unannounced changes have had very significant impacts
on a wide range of Internet users and applications" and had affected the
Internet's stability.

"Failure to comply with this demand by that time will leave Icann no choice
but to seek promptly to enforce VeriSign's contractual obligations," Mr.
Twomey wrote. Penalties could include imposing fines of up to $100,000, or
removing VeriSign's right to operate as the biggest provider of domain

In response, VeriSign agreed to suspend the service temporarily. Tom Galvin,
a Verisign spokesman, said, "We will accede to the request while we explore
our options." He said the company had asked Icann for a few days' reprieve,
but Icann refused and the service will be shut by the Saturday deadline.

VeriSign, based in Mountain View, Calif., had argued that its new service
helped Internet users by giving them alternative addresses and paid
advertising links rather than the standard error message when they mistyped
or misspelled a Web address. The company also hoped to generate millions of
dollars in revenue from the service.

But the service was criticized by network administrators and Internet users,
who complained that it hampered the effectiveness of filters blocking spam
and increased the Internet's vulnerability to attack. Some critics also
charged that it raised privacy issues by redirecting Web queries.

In his three-page letter, Mr. Twomey said VeriSign's effort was violating
its obligations as a neutral Web registry administrator. As the first entry
point on the Web, VeriSign's service can grab such "mistake traffic" and
divert it to its own site instead of allowing it to be handled by rival
search engines. VeriSign has maintained that Icann's objection stifles
innovation on the Internet.

The struggle between VeriSign and Icann has been seen as a test of whether
managing the Internet will be allowed to become more commercial than it has
been. The issue is important to Internet registries like VeriSign because
their revenue streams are static.

Mr. Galvin said that Icann was using "anecdotal and isolated issues to
attempt to regulate nonregistry services."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Received on Sat Oct 4 17:06:00 2003

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