VeriSign Shuts Down Site Finder

VeriSign Friday confirmed that it will comply with a demand issued by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and suspend its controversial Site Finder service.

ICANN, which is charged with ensuring the stability of the domain name system , issued its demand in a letter to VeriSign Friday morning.

“ICANN is disappointed that VeriSign has not suspended the service despite the widespread reports of adverse effects from these changes,” ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey said in a statement Friday. “Although ICANN takes this step reluctantly, we are left with no choice but to enforce the provisions of our contract with VeriSign.”

While VeriSign maintains that the Internet has not been affected by the service, which is essentially a redirect service for end users who misspell a Web site address or email address, the company said it would comply.

“Without so much as a hearing, ICANN today formally asked us to shut down the Site Finder service. We will accede to the request while we explore all of our options,” said Russell Lewis, executive vice president of VeriSign’s Naming and Directory Services Group. “During the more than two weeks that Site Finder has been operational, there is no data to indicate that the core operation of the Domain Name System or stability of the Internet has been adversely affected. ICANN is using anecdotal and isolated issues to attempt to regulate non-registry services, but in the interests of further working with the technical community we will temporarily suspend Site Finder.”

The Site Finder saga began when the service went into effect on Sept. 15. VeriSign implemented the service through changes to the .com and .net core domain name system (DNS). In the past, a “Page Not Found” or email bounce from the sender’s ISP would have been the result.

With the Site Finder service, errors now go to VeriSign’s Site Finder Web page, a click-per-view search engine that programmers claim gathers personal information. The Site Finder page has become 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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