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ICANN demand sees VeriSign pull SiteFinder

Once more unto the breach

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VeriSign has pulled its controversial SiteFinder application after ICANN demanded in a formal statement and letter that the company shut it down by Saturday or face the consequences.

In an official statement and a letter to VeriSign’s general manager Russell Lewis on Friday, the overseeing organisation accused VeriSign of disrupting the DNS (the Internet’s underlying technology) and breaching its contracts.

"VeriSign's actions are not consistent with its contractual obligations under the .com and .net registry agreements. The contractual inconsistencies include, violation of the Code of Conduct and equal access obligations agreed to by VeriSign, failure to comply with the obligation to act as a neutral registry service provider, failure to comply with the Registry-Registrar Protocol, failure to comply with domain registration limitations, and provision of an unauthorized Registry Service," the statement read.

ICANN president and CEO Paul Twomey made clear his displeasure: "ICANN is disappointed
that VeriSign has not suspended the service despite the widespread reports of adverse effects from these changes. Although ICANN takes this step reluctantly, we are left with no choice but to enforce the provisions of our contract with VeriSign."

The decision by VeriSign to introduce the "service" which points all traffic to unused domains to its own webpage has seen widespread criticism and three lawsuits.

"Without so much as a hearing, ICANN today formally asked us to shut down the SiteFinder service," said Russell Lewis in a statement. "We will accede to the request while we explore all of our options." Somewhat rich considering VeriSign introduced SiteFinder without consulting a soul.

Of course this is all much more than a simple argument over SiteFinder. With ICANN given a three-year extension on its contract with the US government and a recent reorganisation under new head Twomey, the Internet is about to embark on its most significant transistion since ICANN was formed. By the end of those three years, ICANN will most likely be left in sole charge of running the Internet and VeriSign - which predated ICANN and built the Net’s foundations - is trying to stamp its authority early on.

It is to Twomey's credit that he came out all guns blazing. This is the first big battle between the most powerful Internet company - VeriSign essentially owns and runs all non-country domains - and the organisation that plans to become its boss. There will be other battles but this one may well set the course for things to come.

That VeriSign has backed down is possibly an indication that it was surprised by the stength of ICANN's attack. It is clear that Twomey means business. It is also interesting since VeriSign looked set to embark on a stalling legal action. It is legendary for refusing to budge even against the most fierce criticism.

Whether ICANN would be able to tackle VeriSign head on is still very unclear. The decision to remove SiteFinder will also strengthen ICANN's hand. Possibly VeriSign - after numerous and widespread criticism on a whole range of issues - has finally learnt some humbleness and has decided to pick its fights more wisely. Only time will tell.

Related links
ICANN statement
Twomey letter to Lewis

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