ICANN Threatens Lawsuit Over Site Finder
by Anick Jesdanun
The Internet's key oversight body threatened legal action Friday to stop a new online search service blamed for such side effects as disabling junk e-mail filters and networked printers.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers called on Internet traffic cop VeriSign Inc. to suspend Site Finder, saying the service's introduction last month violated VeriSign's contract for running the master address lists for ".com" and ".net" names.
"War has broken out," said Mark Lewyn, co-founder of Paxfire Inc., which tried in May to do something similar with ".biz" names but was rebuffed. "This is a battle over who controls the rules and regulations of the Internet going forward."
ICANN gave VeriSign a deadline of 9 p.m. EDT Saturday, after which it will "seek promptly to enforce VeriSign's contractual obligations."
Chief executive Paul Twomey of ICANN said in a letter to VeriSign executive Russell Lewis that the changes "have had a substantial adverse effect ... on the stability of the Internet."
ICANN had previously informally requested a suspension, but VeriSign refused, instead convening an advisory panel to review side effects and suggest changes.
VeriSign officials have described the service as a useful navigational tool for lost Web surfers _ though it also generates unspecified revenues. They did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
VeriSign has scheduled a news conference for Monday, a day before an ICANN committee holds hearings on the matter in Washington, D.C.
ICANN, as the U.S. government's designee to oversee Internet domain name issues, grants contracts to run databases containing listings for various domain names. VeriSign has the contract for ".com" and ".net."
Internet computers around the world regularly check VeriSign's lists to properly route e-mail and Web requests. When there is no match, VeriSign's computers previously would send back a "no such name" message. But on Sept. 15, VeriSign began diverting traffic to its search site.
Spam filters that had depended on the "no such name" message stopped working properly, as have some networked printers. Meanwhile, mobile Web services have gotten swamped with more data than the normal "no such name" response, potentially generating higher phone bills.
And business rivals are upset that VeriSign was making money off its monopoly on the ".com" and ".net" directories. At least three federal lawsuits have been filed, including one seeking class-action status.
In his letter to VeriSign, Twomey said VeriSign "has both a legal and a practical obligation to be responsible in its actions." Twomey said the service violates several contractual provisions, including ones on equal access and operating unauthorized services.