ICANN mulls over Verisign land grab

Grapples with int'l domain service

ComputerWire logo A service for resolving so-called internationalized domain names (IDNs) introduced by VeriSign Inc last Firday has drawn the attention of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which has certain powers over the internet's domain name system.

ICANN said it became aware of "expressions of concern" from the technical community that VeriSign has introduced non-standard technology into the DNS by redirecting web users to one of its own web sites under certain circumstances.

"ICANN has requested the advice of the Internet Architecture Board, which is responsible for providing oversight of the architecture for the protocols and procedures used by the internet," ICANN said in a statement.

As we reported in yesterday's ComputerWire, VeriSign has changed the authoritative name servers for .com and .net so that instead of returning error messages when a browser asks for a non-ASCII domain, they return a VeriSign web site that suggests users download a browser plug-in that encodes foreign domains into ASCII.

ICANN forwarded to the IAB one expression of concern it received, sent by Paul Hoffman of the Internet Mail Consortium, which is involved in internet mail standardization. Hoffman suggested that the new service takes a "guessing" approach to domain resolution and doesn't work particularly well.

"[VeriSign] should not be allowed, through its monopoly on the .com and .net gTLDs, to destroy the coherence of the DNS for its own short-term profit," Hoffman wrote. "ICANN should demand that VGRS immediately stop giving incorrect answers to any query in .com and .net, and should instead follow the IETF standards."

Hoffman points out that the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) is on the verge of recommending IDNA (Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications) as a standard. If VeriSign does not adhere to this standard rather than the current system, its registry contracts should be put up for re-bidding, Hoffman suggested.

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