VeriSign defends Site Finder service

Domain registrar VeriSign Inc. defended its now-suspended Site Finder search tool recently, saying concerns about its effect on the stability of the Internet and on the amount of spam are overblown.

VeriSign, which controls the main database of .com and .net domain names, shut down the Site Finder service earlier this month, after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) demanded the company suspend the service.

But VeriSign can find no evidence that the service, intended to direct Internet users to a correct Web site when they mistype a URL, is causing stability problems, VeriSign officials said. The company is resolving more than 10 billion domain name queries a day, officials said, and the company’s record of providing 100 per cent availability continued after Site Finder launched.

But both ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee and the Internet Architecture Board have preliminarily found stability problems caused by the way Site Finder was implemented, said Mary Hewitt, ICANN’s director of communications.

The service may also cause a problem for a small number of spam filters that check to see if inbound e-mail is coming from a legitimate Web address, said Matt Larson, principal engineer with VeriSign’s Naming and Directory Services. But the domain name check isn’t used by most popular spam filters, and it’s just one of many checks a spam filter vendor should use to check for spam, Larson said.

Just three per cent of spam comes from non-existent domains, Larson added. “This is really a limited issue that we believe some people have made more of than is really there,” he added.

VeriSign launched Site Finder in mid-September after spending several million dollars to develop it, according to company officials. Critics almost immediately voiced several concerns. In addition to concerns about Internet stability and spam, competing companies and some Internet users accused VeriSign of hijacking other Web site search services by leveraging its control over the .com and .net domains.

Two companies, Go Daddy Software Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona, and Popular Enterprises LLC of Orlando, Florida, filed lawsuits against VeriSign within days of Site Finder’s launch.

VeriSign officials declined to comment on the lawsuits, but they questioned whether ICANN had the authority to ask the company to suspend the service pending hearings about Site Finder.

“We believe the debate is much more about philosophy and approach than it is about security and stability,” said Russell Lewis, executive vice-president and general manager of VeriSign’s Naming and Directory Services.