ICANN Investigates Site Finder

VeriSign's Site Finder has come under further scrutiny from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. A committee of the Internet governing body is investigating whether the service hurts the Internet's stability.

ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee is calling for public comments and reports on Site Finder and has scheduled a "fact-gathering meeting" for October 7 in Washington, D.C., ICANN said. The committee plans later to issue a report on the effects of Site Finder on the stability of the Internet.

"VeriSign introduced its wild card service, and although I am told there was some kind of advance notice, it came upon the world as a surprise and after some hours it became clear that it is a pretty big deal," said Steve Crocker, chairman of ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee. "The preliminary evidence suggests Site Finder has impacted the stability of the Internet."

VeriSign controls the main database of .com and .net domain names. Earlier this month the company added a "wild card" to the databases, sending Web users who enter a nonexistent .com or .net address to Site Finder, a new service that offers Web links and paid advertisements.

Introducing Instability?

Site Finder has drawn a storm of criticism from both technical and commercial fronts. At least two competing Internet companies have sued VeriSign, charging unfair competition. Some antispam filters have failed, and uproar among network administrators prompted the Internet Software Consortium to update its Domain Name System software so Site Finder can be blocked. Internet service providers are said to have made changes to their networks to bypass the VeriSign service.

"Now you have a warring set of changes and it becomes a rickety system. That makes us engineers nervous. Generally we like to make changes slowly, carefully and with a great deal of consultation," Crocker said.

ICANN has already called on VeriSign to suspend Site Finder pending a review of the system, but VeriSign rejected that request.

Whether the committee's report will have any effect on Site Finder is unclear. ICANN is exploring the parameters of its authority; this is one of the first times it has been confronted with an uncooperative domain registry.

Open to Discusion

VeriSign said it supports discussion on Site Finder. "We certainly are in favor of the community having a healthy discourse on all of the technologies and innovations on the Internet. Site Finder is one of those. We are looking at how the (October 7) meeting is shaping up and we will make our determination on participation based on that," said VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy.

ICANN is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the Internet's domain names and addresses as well as other policy issues related to the Net's technical functions.

Comments about Site Finder can be sent to the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee at secsac-comment@icann.org.

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