ICANN outs VeriSign on loose leash

ICANN outs VeriSign on loose leash

Domain regulator Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has revised the VeriSign registry control rights over suffixes, giving it exclusive dibs on .com for decades if it follows the rules.

In a much-awaited decision, ICANN curbed VeriSign's right to the .org prefix which will now end in 2002, but allowed it to keep the .com suffix after its agreement expires next year. VeriSign, the largest domain name registry worldwide, will keep the lucrative .com name till November 10, 2007 at which time it may take another four-year term if it meets ICANN criteria. VeriSign will also be allowed to contend for the .net name after its control ends in 2006, while the .org domain will be turned over to a non-profit organisation.

The original agreement had given VeriSign an automatic right to operate the three registries, whose annual revenues are in the vicinity of tens of millions per year, through 2007. VeriSign's fee to ICANN was also capped, giving it an unfair advantage over competitors. ICANN's operational costs, which are shared amongst domain registries, are expected to increase significantly in coming years as the domain name sector grows and management becomes more resource-intensive.

In addition, the .com prefix was issued exclusively under the proviso that it would reinvest $200 million on domain name research and development. However, competitors raised concern that the clause's loose terminology might see the funds disappear into VeriSign's pocket. To combat this, ICANN has set VeriSign the task of building a central directory of top-level domain names. The registry will also provide $5 million to the non-profit group that takes over .org and has been forced to erase the $10,000 fee it imposes on anyone wishing to become a .org, .net, or .com registrar. VeriSign's once proposed volume discounts have also been canned and if it violates any of these rules or makes changes to its services without informing ICANN it has agreed to monetary sanctions.

Local domain name registry, Melbourne IT, one of the major critics of VeriSign's former agreement said it was relatively happy with the terms of the new contract. Bruce Tonkin, chief technology officer for Melbourne IT, says he is looking forward to getting past the VeriSign saga so the company can concentrate on the introduction and sale of the new .biz domain expected to hit the market in May.

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