27 February 2004 VeriSign, the company that runs the bulk of the Internet’s addressing system, is suing the Internet’s main regulatory body, accusing it of being unresponsive and claiming that its inconsistent decisions are impeding innovation.
VeriSign is angry at a decision made by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to stop VeriSign from redirecting users to its own web site when they mistype an Internet address.
VeriSign controls the routing of web site addresses with suffixes such as “.com” and “.net”. It enjoys a particularly powerful monopoly position in the way that the Internet works, but has to operate under the aegis of ICANN.
ICANN lacks the rigorous procedures that regulators normally have and acts in a dictatorial manner, claim its detractors. As a result, it has faced criticism for “making the rules up as it goes along”, according to Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami.
However, ICANN’s action in this case had the support of many organisations and users.
SiteFinder, as VeriSign’s service was called, provided users who mistyped Internet address with a search page, from which Verisign made money by re-directing users to certain web sites.
But the introduction of the service caused a storm of protest from organisations that claimed that it undermined their own systems and functions such as spam filtering. Critics say that VeriSign is a monopoly and the so-called new services such as SiteFinder amount to an abuse of its position.
But VeriSign has claimed that its action was intended to force ICANN to introduce clearer and more consistent regulatory processes.
“It’s a culmination of our efforts over the last few years to gain a clear and consistent and fair process for the introduction of new services,” Tom Galvin, vice president of government relations for VeriSign, told the Associated Press newswire.