ICANN, VeriSign Reach Accord (Wired News)

The internet’s key oversight agency said Monday it had tentatively agreed to settle a longstanding legal dispute with VeriSign, a company that exerts significant control over how people find websites and send e-mail.

VeriSign’s accord with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers could pave the way for the revival — after an outside review — of a controversial search service the company created in late 2003 for guiding internet users who mistype web addresses.

After VeriSign launched the service, called Site Finder, for “.com” and “.net” names, critics complained that it interfered with spam filters and other key internet tools while giving VeriSign an unfair competitive advantage in search.

With Site Finder, surfers who entered addresses that don’t exist got, instead of an error message, suggestions on where they might have wanted to go. VeriSign considered that a benefit for users but because VeriSign sometimes got money for directing traffic to those sites critics termed the service an abuse of power.

VeriSign controls the computers with master lists of domain name suffixes, such as “.com.” It also runs the core directories for the two most popular suffixes, “.com” and “.net.” As a result, internet computers intersect with VeriSign’s millions of times daily to find out how to route e-mail and other traffic.

Under pressure from ICANN, VeriSign agreed to suspend Site Finder shortly after it was introduced. The company sued ICANN months later, arguing that the agency’s actions, including the decision on Site Finder, impeded VeriSign’s efforts to offer new, moneymaking services. (more…)