Network Solutions, AOL Ink Marketing Deal

In a bid to remain the top player in the domain name registration business,
Network Solutions Inc. on
Monday inked a multi-year, multi-million dollar marketing agreement with America Online Inc., which lets visitors to
AOL’s properties register domain names through its sites.


Although the two companies declined to reveal the exact value of the deal,
it’s likely to be an expensive one — as are most so-called “portal deals”
— so this represents a bet by Network Solutions (NSI) that the agreement
will be worth its high cost.


It’s not a new strategy for Network Solutions, which, in March, agreed to
be acquired by VeriSign Inc. The
company has long believed in top-tier portal deals, while rivals like Register.com have forged second-tier and
vertical portal agreements. Network Solutions in March inked a two-year
deal with Microsoft; in February it
signed with AltaVista; and in
November it expanded its relationship with Yahoo!


“NSI and AOL are global leaders, and together, we will help countless small
businesses and individuals make a name for themselves on the Internet,”
said Jim Rutt, chief executive officer of Network Solutions.


“We are delighted to enter into this global alliance and continue to extend
the Network Solutions brand.”


Rather than being intimidated by the deal, Register.com says it’s pleased,
slamming top-tier portal deals as unjustifiably expensive.


“It was something we could never justify in a million years, from a
financial perspective,” said Sascha Mornell, vice president of sales and
marketing for Register.com.


“I think that this is something that’s fantastic for our business. It means
Network Solutions is spending a bundle of money in one place, at AOL. And
it means AOL is not ever going to get into the domain registration space.”


When the Internet Corporation for Assigned
Names and Numbers
(ICANN) opened up domain registration to companies
other than Network Solutions, AOL was one of the early players accredited
to register domains. But the company has never emerged as a major player in
the space.


The new deal will make Network Solutions’ services available through
co-branded sites across AOL’s properties — AOL, AOL.com, CompuServe, Netscape Netcenter, Digital City, ICQ, and Spinner/Winamp, including the international services.


Members of, and visitors to, AOL’s properties will be able to register
domains, and access Network Solutions’ other services like Web site design.


The company’s pending acquisition by VeriSign hasn’t been forgotten in the
deal. VeriSign’s security services will be promoted across AOL’s business
channel.


The AOL/Network Solutions co-branded sites will also promote AOL’s business
services, including the Netscape Business Directory, which will include
data from NSI.


NSI has also agreed to distribute a co-branded version of Netscape Instant
Messenger.

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