VeriSign Inc yesterday sued domain name system manager ICANN over what it says is constant interference with its ability to offer new services, bringing to a head years of friction between the company and the body it describes as its “de facto regulator”.
The company wants the Los Angeles court to rule that ICANN should not be allowed to block, delay or regulate VeriSign services such as Site Finder, which VeriSign launched in September and subsequently turned off at ICANN’s demand.
ICANN has purported to assert progressively broader authority to ‘regulate’ the services VeriSign may offer and the prices at which they may be offered, the complaint reads. It points to the Site Finder controversy as evidence of this.
VeriSign VP of government relations Tom Galvin said the move was a last resort to get some clarity on exactly what kinds of powers ICANN is supposed to have when it comes to regulating services.
The heart of this is a contract dispute. ICANN has been attempting to extend its authority beyond the scope of its contracts, he said. But it’s important to note that we still support ICANN. This is not an effort to not have an ICANN play a critical role in the internet.
The Association for Competitive Technology, best known for backing Microsoft Corp through its long struggles with international antitrust laws, came out in support of VeriSign’s position in a statement yesterday.
Without a clear mission or internal processes, ICANN’s current ineffectiveness threatens the future stability, security and growth of the internet, it said. ICANN has become a black hole. Proposals for innovation go in and nothing comes out.
An ICANN spokesperson said that the organization has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, and he therefore declined to comment on the suit.
But based on past evidence, the organization thinks its legal position is sound, at least in terms of Site Finder. It issued a veiled threat that it would sue VeriSign in October, to enforce VeriSign’s contractual obligations unless Site Finder was turned off.
Site Finder was a system whereby any browser that looked up a non-existent .com or .net domain name, if the user spelled it incorrectly for example, would be directed to a VeriSign-run web site that suggested corrections and offered advertising.
Site Finder was only active for two weeks, and delivered what VeriSign CEO Stratton Sclavos said was about half a million or so of revenue. Extrapolating, version 1.0 of the service was a $13m business and likely had a good profit margin.
Site Finder made VeriSign, which runs the master list of .com and .net top-level internet domains and collects $6 for every domain that is registered in those namespaces, a company that the net-savvy loved to hate.
It existence reportedly broke some applications that use the DNS, such as certain spam filters, and appeared to some people to be nothing more than a ploy to boost flagging revenue at the expense of the internet’s stability.
Galvin said that ICANN’s security and stability committee said it would deliver a report on Site Finder within a month, four months ago, and that ICANN CEO Paul Twomey promised work on streamlining the approval process for new services by January, but has yet to deliver.
This article is based on material originally published by ComputerWire