VeriSign Vows to Hold ICANN Accountable for Actions

WASHINGTON — VeriSign says it will hold the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) “fully accountable” for its actions in forcing the .com and .net registrar to close its controversial Site Finder service.

Launched on Sept. 15, Site Finder directed Internet users who mistyped domain names to a VeriSign managed site instead of the traditional “page cannot be displayed” response. Site Finder then offered users three choices: a search option, a “Did You Mean” listing of similar domain names, and a listing of popular categories related to the search request.

VeriSign planned to monetize the service by selling unused domain names and displaying sponsored search directory listings.

ICANN, the governing body of the Internet, claims VeriSign’s new service is not in compliance with its obligation to act as a neutral registry service provider and demanded Site Finder be shuttered. Site Finder has also been criticized for disrupting core operations of the Internet.

VeriSign has also been sued by Popular Enterprises, the parent company of, and Go Daddy Software. The companies claim VeriSign is abusing its position as the sole registrar for .com and .net to gain an unfair business advantage.

The registrar has denied all of the allegations and claims ICANN is improperly attempting to regulate its business but said it agreed to shut down its Site Finder service over the weekend in order to obtain a “fair hearing” before ICANN, which meets in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

“We haven’t been able to get our side of the story out and I didn’t think we were going to get a fair hearing if we didn’t take it (Site Finder) down,” Russell Lewis, EVP and general manager of VeriSign told reporters at a press conference Monday. “ICANN shouldn’t be micromanaging these new services.”

Lewis’ Friday letter in response to ICANN’s demand that Site Finder be closed was much blunter.

“VeriSign considers ICANN’s ion today a groundless interference with VeriSign’s business and existing contractual relationships, for which VeriSign will hold ICANN fully accountable,” Lewis wrote to Paul Twomey, president of ICANN.

Lewis said ICANN’s actions “appear largely based on undocumented and unfounded accusations.”

According to Lewis, VeriSign contacted ICANN only a “few days” before launching the service. He said objections to Site Finder were coming from a “very loud and very vocal” minority in the name of “tech purity.”

VeriSign implemented the Site Finder service through changes to the .com and .net core domain name system (DNS). The Site Finder page quickly became one of the more heavily traveled sites on the Web because of the service. ICANN said the “wildcard” VeriSign deployed has “adversely affected anti-spam software, email deliveries, and core DNS operations, as well as raised privacy concerns.”

Lewis, on the other hand said this raises the issue as to whether innovation on the Internet will continue, or be stifled.

“The next several weeks will be a test as to whether innovation will occur within the Internet infrastructure,” he said. “The fact is that while the Internet has been used for innovative purposes over the last decade, the core infrastructure has suffered from a lack of innovation. VeriSign will argue vigorously for innovation because it not only improves the Internet user experience but has implications for the vitality of the DNS system and economic competitiveness and job growth.”

He also noted that the Site Finder service has been used more than 40 million times since its debut, adding that it had been well received “by millions of Internet users who appreciate getting navigation tools as opposed to the ‘dead end’ of an error message.”

ICANN has scheduled a special meeting of its Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SECSAC) on Oct. 7 to gather information about the ramifications of VeriSign’s service. The organization’s Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is also investigating.

VeriSign has implemented its own Technical Review Panel, comprised of Internet community leaders, who it said would help it gather and analyze feedback about Site Finder. VeriSign said the panel will assist VeriSign in the long-term implementation of Site Finder.

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