ICANN in Hot Seat over .net Registry Report

A report recommending that VeriSign is well positioned to remain in charge of the “.net” domain name registries is coming under repeated criticism, as the Internet’s international governing body finds itself in the eye of yet another controversy.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) received a report earlier this week from a consulting firm hired to determine what vendor had the best infrastructure in placed to handle the registration oversight.

‘Sloppy’ Work Alleged

The report scored VeriSign higher than all four other bidders for the work in many of the 14 categories it examined. The report was conducted by Telcordia Technologies.

Earlier in the week, Germany-based Denic, one of the other four firms vying with VeriSign for the right to control the domain, slammed the report, saying it was “sloppy” work replete with “serious factual errors” that led to mistaken conclusions.

One drawback cited in the report by the reviewers was that Denic uses a proprietary software system to operate its domains; Denic says that’s not the case and provided evidence to that effect to ICANN.

More recently, the chairman of an internal ICANN committee that established the methodology for the report added his voice to the din, citing a “serious flaw in the methodology.”

In a note to an ICANN mailing list, technical committee head Philip Sheppard said Telcordia “used a scoring system which was biased towards multiple technical criteria” rather than using competition as a key factor, as the committee that launched the review had ordered.

The controversy is likely to spill over into an ICANN meeting scheduled to start Monday in Argentina.

Princely Sums

While it’s not clear how much the right to operate the domain is worth, VeriSign says that the .net domain sees some US$700 billion per year in e-commerce activity and some 3 trillion Web page views.

VeriSign’s current contract expires on June 30. Some in the Web community had hoped that since VeriSign controls the “.com” registry, a second vendor would be handed the right to oversee “.net.”

Others in the running in addition to VeriSign and Denic include Ireland-based Afilias, Sentan Registry Services and Core++, which is actually an alliance of several smaller firms.

Telcordia’s report suggested that both Sentan and VeriSign are well equipped to handle the contract to oversee the domain, while it said the other two firms had serious shortcomings.

Some in the domain world had no doubt wanted to see VeriSign ousted as .net registrar because of its controversial decision to implement the “site finder” service in which all misspelled or incorrect URLs entered in Web browsers resulted in a user being sent to a VeriSign-controlled site.

Decision To Come

ICANN has asked the “Internet community” to provide feedback on the Telcordia report before a final decision is made but has also reportedly opened discussions with VeriSign about the possible terms of a contract extension.

Many believe VeriSign always had an advantage because ICANN might opt for stability and continuity and because VeriSign already operated the massive .com registry and has handled the .net domain without major complaints.

However, there is little love lost between the two, since VeriSign attempted to sue the governing body over its efforts to shut down Site Finder. A judge tossed the case out.

Whatever the outcome, analysts say the case is a reminder that many people and businesses remain frustrated over the governance of the Internet, which many believed grew far faster, especially in terms of e-commerce, than ICANN was prepared to handle.

ICANN is also stirring the pot with plans to roll out more top-level domains, including specialty domains for things such as travel sites and job listings as well as a special mobile domain where pages optimized for viewing on mobile devices could be positioned.

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