VeriSign Site Finder Draws Criticism

Even as critics blast what they characterize as VeriSign's hijacking of Web traffic, the Mountain View, Calif.-based company is standing firm.

When Web surfers type in an incorrect .com or .net URL, they are now sent to Site Finder, which offers tips to find the intended destination. It also offers alternative sites and links to ad-sponsored sites, which has critics on a tear. They maintain that VeriSign, which controls the popular .com and .net domains under a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), abdicated its responsibility to be a neutral arbiter and registry of domain names in return for ad revenue.


>> Sept. 15: VeriSign launches Site Finder site.
>> Sept. 18: The Internet Software Consortium issues a patch for ISPs to block customers from Site Finder; Popular Enterprises, owner of, launches $100 million suit against VeriSign charging antitrust violations and unfair competition.
>> Sept. 19: ICANN asks VeriSign to suspend Site Finder until impact can be assessed; VeriSign refuses.>> Sept. 23: The Public Interest Registry urges ICANN to take remedial action to stop Site Finder.

"In my opinion, they are stealing,and that's not too strong a word,visitors from legitimate search-engine companies," said Brian Bergin, president of network consultancy Terabyte Computers, Boone, N.C.

VeriSign Chairman and CEO Stratton Sclavos characterized such critics as a vocal minority.

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"Within two days of Site Finder being out there, the vast majority of our customers and prospects were fine. The noise we're still hearing is from technical purists and those with a political bias or agenda," Sclavos told CRN.

In a statement, ICANN said VeriSign's change "appeared to have considerably weakened the stability of the Internet, introduced ambiguous and inaccurate responses in the [Domain Name System], and has caused an escalating chain reaction of measures and countermeasures that contribute to further instability."

Bergin said with the change, spam filters programmed to reject e-mail from nonexistent sites now accept it because Site Finder makes it appear legitimate.

Solution providers said search engine and portal companies should be especially concerned. Google had no comment, while an MSN spokeswoman said Site Finder doesn't significantly impact MSN's search engine.