VeriSign defends Site Finder service

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VeriSign defends Site Finder service

Domain registrar VeriSign has defended its now-suspended Site Finder search tool, saying that concerns about its effect on the stability of the internet are overblown.

VeriSign, which controls the main database of .com and .net domain names, shut down the Site Finder service last week after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) demanded the company suspend the service.

However, VeriSign claimed it could find no evidence that the service, intended to direct internet users to a correct website when they mistype a URL, is causing security problems. VeriSign is resolving more than 10 billion domain name queries a day, and claimed its record of providing 100% availability continued after Site Finder launched.

But both Icann's Srecurity and Stability Advisory Committee and the Internet Architecture Board have found stability problems caused by the way Site Finder was implemented, said Icann director of communications Mary Hewitt.

While VeriSign officials questioned if Icann was overstepping its boundaries by halting the Site Finder service, Hewitt said Icann will go ahead with a meeting today to examine the complaints about Site Finder.

The service may cause a problem for a small number of spam filters that check to see if inbound e-mail is coming from a legitimate web address, said Matt Larson, principal engineer with VeriSign's Naming and Directory Services.

But the domain name check is not used by most popular spam filters, and it is just one of many checks a spam filter company should use to check for spam, he added.

Just 3% of spam comes from non-existent domains.  "This is really a limited issue that we believe some people have made more of than is really there," Larson said.

VeriSign launched Site Finder in mid-September. Critics almost immediately voiced several concerns about internet stability and spam, and the site's hijacking other website search services by exploiting its control over the .com and .net domains.

Two US companies, Go Daddy Software and Popular Enterprises, filed lawsuits against VeriSign within days of Site Finder's launch.

After Site Finder launched, internet service providers such as America Online could reconfigure their services so subscribers were directed to other internet search pages when they mistyped an address, VeriSign officials said.

VeriSign officials declined to comment on the lawsuits, but they questioned whether Icann had the authority to ask the company to suspend the service pending hearings about Site Finder.

"We believe the debate is much more about philosophy and approach than it is about security and stability," said Russell Lewis, executive vice president and general manager of VeriSign's Naming and Directory Services. "We do not believe that Icann ... really should be micro-managing these kinds of new services."

Hewitt said she had no comment on VeriSign questioning the organisation's authority to stop VeriSign from offering Site Finder. But she added that Icann's request that VeriSign suspend the service came after many objections from internet users.

Eleven other domain name registries have launched similar services without Icann stepping in, Lewis said, but he declined to comment on what legal action VeriSign could take if Icann tries to stop VeriSign from offering Site Finder permanently.

Icann officials have accused VeriSign of giving them little notice before launching the service. Lewis said VeriSign had notified Icann a "few days" before Site Finder launched.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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