GoDaddy Backs ICANN in Fight Against VeriSign

In a plot twist reminiscent of a soap opera, domain registrar GoDaddy is throwing its support to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is being sued by dominant registrar VeriSign, the overseer of the .com and .net top-level domains (TLDs).

The web of alliances involved in the dispute is tangled. GoDaddy is not a natural ally of ICANN; in fact, the company sued ICANN last year over VeriSign’s proposed wait listing service (WLS), but the case was dismissed. Now, GoDaddy is looking to work with ICANN in a fight with VeriSign over a different, controversial service — SiteFinder — which redirects mistyped domains to VeriSign sites instead of delivering error messages.

As the court cases pile up — ICANN and VeriSign also have been sued by a group of eight domain-name registrars that are seeking to stop the WLS despite the dismissal of GoDaddy’s earlier case — ICANN officials are meeting this week in Rome. Regardless of the outcome of the different disputes, their existence alone raises questions about ICANN’s governance of Internet domains, Gartner analyst Lydia Leong told TechNewsWorld.

“It’s really a deeper issue and about fundamental problems with the way ICANN is governed and managed,” Leong said.

Monopoly Abuse

GoDaddy founder and president Bob Parsons — whose company has sent letters to the U.S. Department of Commerce, lawmakers and ICANN president Paul Twomey urging formal review of VeriSign’s registry position — argued VeriSign’s services are the problem.

Parsons criticized several aspects of VeriSign’s business, including: its consolidate service, already in place, as “a gouge that’s not right”; the company’s controversial SiteFinder service that was suspended last year after ICANN threatened contractual litigation; and the proposed WLS service, which Parsons claimed will “destroy the entire backorder industry.”

“Basically, what we feel is VeriSign has exhibited the very type of behavior that makes our economy abhor monopolies,” Parsons told TechNewsWorld. “It’s greedy and just taking advantage of their position.”

Sue, Then Support

Parsons added that although GoDaddy sued ICANN over the WLS — which analysts agree could jeopardize existing domain backorder services — recent efforts by ICANN leadership have changed GoDaddy’s view.

“Since [dismissal of the suit], we feel the administration at ICANN is working very diligently to do what it’s supposed to do,” he said. “As long as they’re doing that, they can count on our zealous support.”

Contrasting VeriSign — “a huge, multibillion-dollar corporation” — with ICANN — “a small, nonprofit organization” — GoDaddy said it has pledged US$100,000 to ICANN to aid its defense against the VeriSign lawsuit, which was filed because ICANN allegedly overstepped its authority in demanding SiteFinder’s suspension.

ICANN and VeriSign were not immediately available for comment.

Good of the Internet

Parsons said other registrars also are backing GoDaddy’s stance against VeriSign and its proposed services.

“Support from the other registrars has been excellent,” he said. “We’ve heard from many that have told us they really appreciate us stepping up and taking the lead.”

For example, Afilias spokesperson Heather Carle indicated that although the desire to introduce new services is legitimate, her domain registry company wants to ensure those innovations do not disrupt existing services or technical processes that make the Internet work.

“While there’s a lot of services the registrees would like to introduce, there has to be balance with the standards and services in place,” Carle told TechNewsWorld. “We’ve been committed to a standards-based approach for the good of the Internet. That’s different from VeriSign, which says standards are needed for commercial development of the Internet.”

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