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Verisign snubs Site Finder suspension request

Internet infrastructure company VeriSign has rejected a request from Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers  to suspend a service that redirects internet users who have mistyped domain names.

Instead, VeriSign is forming a committee to assess the issues raised by its service, called Site Finder, and find ways to address technical issues with the service.

Icann had requested on Friday that VeriSign suspend the controversial "wildcarding" service, which was introduced last week, pending the outcome of a review from the Security and Stability Advisory Committee and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).

The IAB report said the Site Finder service which, it said, "interacted poorly" with any program or feature that depended on the traditional "no such name" responses for domains that do not exist.

The statement from VeriSign came on the same day that another company, web domain hosting company Go Daddy Software, said it had filed a lawsuit against VeriSign over Site Finder, the second such lawsuit in as many weeks.

Like the earlier suit, which was brought by Popular Enterprises, Go Daddy's lawsuit claims that VeriSign is misusing its role as the .com and .net domain registry to muscle out competition.

VeriSign is capitalising on user confusion to direct web browsers to the sites of VeriSign customers instead of others who might benefit from the mistypes. To counter the Site Finder effect, website owners will be forced to register every misspelled version of their domain name to prevent losing customers to paid links provided by Site Finder, Go Daddy said.

VeriSign is sensitive to criticisms of Site Finder and is working with the internet community to resolve technical issues, said spokesman Tom Galvin.

However, in a letter to Icann president and chief executive officer Paul Twomey, VeriSign executive vice president Russell Lewis said it would be "premature to decide on any course of action until we first have had an opportunity to collect and review the available data".

VeriSign would take appropriate steps regarding Site Finder "after completing an assessment of any operational impact of our wildcard implementation", he said.

Galvin added that VeriSign has already made improvements to Site Finder which address some problems with e-mail systems and is planning others.

The Site Finder committee will further guide the company's response. Although the committee has not been selected, it will be made up of individuals from the internet community and will address technical issues and other complaints about the service, Galvin said.

VeriSign's Site Finder has received more than 20 million unique visitors since the service was introduced last week, averaging between four million and seven million a day. Many of those users took advantage of the site's suggested links, which are grouped under the heading "Did you mean?", Galvin said.

A lesser number used the site's Search the Web and Search Popular Categories features, which include "sponsored" links paid for by VeriSign customers.

Icann spokeswoman Mary Hewitt said that the organisation stands by its request, and Icann lawyers are reviewing the .com and .net contracts VeriSign signed with Icann to see if Site Finder violates any provisions of those agreements.

Icann could not comment on the status of those reviews or on what steps it might take if VeriSign refused to abide by its request, Hewitt said.

Harald Alvestrand, a Cisco Systems fellow and Internet Engineering Task Force chair, was less circumspect.

"VeriSign is taking choice away from users, and this is especially acute in the non-English context. If you had error messages that were coming up in Korean or Thai and are now in English, that's not something you'd be happy with," he said.

Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service


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