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VeriSign defends typosquatting service

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MemoWatch Russell (AKA Rusty) Lewis, general manager of VeriSign's Global Registry Services has been busy with his pen lately. At the weekend he wrote to ICANN declining the Net governing body's request to suspend VeriSign's controversial Site Finder service.

He's also written to his employees to explain VeriSign's actions, which techies allege undermine well-established Net technical standards.

Rusty is prepared to take these considerations in mind in considering modifying Site Finder, however he shows no signs that VeriSign is prepared to drop the much-criticised service. On the contrary, Rusty claims Net users have "voted with their mouses" in favour of the service by using it millions of times a day.

What!

Surfers normally only reach Site Finder by accident when they mistype something into their browser. So how can the 65 million people who wound up on Site Finder by last Sunday be described as "voting for the service"? ®

That memo in full...

Dear Colleagues,

VeriSign recently launched an innovative service to millions of Internet users. Our new Site Finder service improves the navigation experience for users by replacing frustrating error messages that offer no useful information with a consistent Web page that offers the user navigation assistance. Research has indicated that over 20 million users make these errors every day, whether by mistyping a domain name or deliberately searching for a domain that has not been registered.

Site Finder is a powerful tool that improves Web navigation for users. When a user types a .com or .net domain name into their browser address bar that does not exist, a "natural language" algorithm is run against the query to attempt to find domain names that are similar in spelling. An example would be www.bookstre.com - instead of a confusing error message, Site Finder would ask the user if they meant to type www.bookstore.com, and also present related categories and listings. I encourage all of you to experience this for yourselves from your browsers today.

Millions of Internet users have already benefited from Site Finder. Through Sunday, Sept. 21, Site Finder has been visited over 65 million times by Internet users. The most popular function has been the Search tool, which has been used over 11 million times to search for a domain name. The "Did You Mean?" tool has been used 1.6 million times by users looking for an alternative domain name. Site Finder has averaged more than 5 million unique visitors a day.

Having said that, as a new and innovative service there is work still to be done. In the course of our implementation various users have given us constructive feedback on how best to implement the service to address technical issues. VeriSign is committed to working with the Internet community on Site Finder, so we have established a Technical Review Panel to assist us in gathering and analyzing technical information regarding Site Finder. Over the coming days, we will continue to take feedback and incorporate constructive ideas about how we can improve the service and assess its effectiveness.

We are inviting comments about the service by emailing VeriSign at sitefinder@verisign-grs.com. In addition, information about Site Finder and its implementation is available at http://www.verisign.com/nds/naming/sitefinder/index.html

In an effort to gather and analyze feedback about the service, VeriSign has established a Technical Review Panel comprised of Internet community leaders. Over the next few weeks, the Technical Review Panel will gather information to assist VeriSign in assessing any operational impact and taking any appropriate action.

As with any technology innovation, there will be differences of opinion and even some controversy. We remain focused on the fact that Internet users have "voted with their mouses" that they like the service by using it millions of times a day.

As we make long-term decisions about the service we will keep you informed about developments. If you have any questions about Site Finder, don't hesitate to email me.

Regards,

Rusty Lewis

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