Icann to investigate VeriSign's wildcard service

VeriSign's Site Finder has come under further scrutiny from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

VeriSign's Site Finder has come under further scrutiny from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann). 

Icann's Security and Stability Advisory Committee is calling for public comments and reports on Site Finder and has scheduled a "fact-gathering meeting" for 7 October.

The committee will issue a report on the effects of Site Finder on the stability of the internet.

VeriSign controls the main database of .com and .net domain names. Earlier this month the company added a "wildcard" to the databases, sending web users who enter a non-existent .com or .net address to Site Finder, a service which offers web links and paid advertisements.

Site Finder has drawn a storm of criticism from both technical and commercial fronts.

At least two competing internet companies have sued VeriSign, charging unfair competition. Some antispam filters failed and uproar among network administrators prompted the Internet Software Consortium (ISC) to update its DNS (Domain Name System) software so that Site Finder can be blocked. Internet service providers are said to have made changes to their networks to bypass the VeriSign service.

Icann has already called on VeriSign to suspend Site Finder pending a review of the system, but VeriSign rejected that request.

Whether the committee's report will have any effect on Site Finder is unclear. Icann is exploring the parameters of its authority; this is one of the first times it has been confronted with an unco-operative domain registry.

VeriSign said it supports discussion on Site Finder.

"We certainly are in favour of the community having a healthy discourse on all of the technologies and innovations on the internet, Site Finder is one of those.

We are looking at how the [7 October] meeting is shaping up and we will make our determination on participation based on that," said VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy.

Icann is a non-profit organisation responsible for co-ordinating the internet's domain names and addresses as well as other policy issues related to the internet's technical functions.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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