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ICANN prez welcomes new era of internet

Paul Twomey discusses ground-breaking VeriSign deal

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The deal struck between ICANN and VeriSign in a meeting late on Monday has welcomed in a "new era" of the internet, president and CEO of ICANN, Paul Twomey told us last night.

Admitting that it has been a very long negotiation, and one that was not over yet, Twomey was nevertheless delighted that "the VeriSign-ICANN war has come to an end". Something that he says has obvious benefit to the wider internet community.

That community has broadly welcomed the deal. All have pointed out that VeriSign negotiated a windfall with its continued ownership of dotcom - particularly the clause that lets it raise prices by seven per cent each year - but by ICANN finally gaining control of the root zone, the internet as a whole is better off.

There is some criticism of a gagging clause in which VeriSign pledges to support ICANN publicly - something that has clearly written in to aid ICANN in the ongoing WSIS process. The deal also restricts the ability of third-parties to interject, sparking ICANN critic and one-time ICANN Board member Karl Auerbach to argue the deal was like "duct tape around dynamite".

ICANN observer Brett Fausett said in his regular podcast that ICANN had "pretty much got everything it wanted", but bemoaned the fact that the status quo had stayed the same. Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University, Jonathan Zittrain, agreed: "So long as this overall structure isn't changing, the only reason I can see to begrudge the deal is about money - other registry candidates who think they could run .com for less than VeriSign, and customers who may thus overpay VeriSign (and, through its tax, ICANN) for registering or renewing names there."

Zittrain argued that the deal isn't surprising, "and while one might envy VeriSign's lucrative franchise, it's only money. Matters like VeriSign essentially taking all unregistered names and using them itself appear to be resolved, and in ICANN's favour."

The entire settlement is currently out for public consultation, so changes could theoretically be made.

The deal's evolution

The deal itself stemmed from the two companies' lawyers discussing ways of ending a vicious legal battle that began when VeriSign introduced its controversial SiteFinder service in 2003 without consulting anyone. Twomey put his foot down and ordered VeriSign to pull the service, sparking a long-delayed confrontation between the two organizations.

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