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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 October 2005, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Deal lets Verisign hold onto .com
Keyboard close-up
The role of Icann is being increasingly questioned
The key net oversight body has settled a long-running dispute with Verisign, a company which has significant influence over how people find websites.

Under the terms of the deal, Verisign has dropped an anti-trust lawsuit against the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

As part of the settlement, Verisign is being allowed to keep control over the lucrative .com domain until 2012.

The deal comes as nations such as Iran and Brazil question the role of Icann.

Search controversy

The row was over a controversial search service by Verisign called Site Finder.

It really hits the reset button on the relationship between Verisign and Icann
Mark McLaughlin, Verisign
The Site Finder service meant if web users were looking for a .com or .net domain that was non-existent because of typing mistakes, or it was not registered, they were sent to Verisign's website instead of just getting an "error" page.

The net policy body, Icann, was worried the website could have affected the stability of the net. Rivals claimed Verisign was taking advantage of its position as an administrator of .com domain names.

Under pressure from Icann, Verisign suspended the service in October 2003. The company later sued Icann, claiming it had no authority to stop it from offering its site finder service.

In response, Icann countersued.

Contract extended

The tentative agreement reached between the two sides revises the definition of "registry service" so that Site Finder is clearly covered and requires prior approval by Icann.

It also sets up a formal review process for new services, giving the net oversight body 90 days to raise any concerns.

Under the terms of the agreement, Verisign has had its contract to maintain the database of 35 million .com domain names extended from 2007 to 2012.

But details of the agreement suggest that the contract will be automatically renewed after that date, unless Verisign goes bankrupt or materially breaches the agreement.

Verisign makes $6 a year from each of the 35 million .com domain names in use. It also controls the .net domain, which contains nearly six million names.

"It really hits the reset button on the relationship between Verisign and Icann, and allows everybody to get focused on more important things, like security and stability and the globalisation of the internet," Verisign Senior Vice President Mark McLaughlin told the Reuters news agency.

Net power struggle nears climax
11 Oct 05 |  Technology
US rejects changes to net control
30 Sep 05 |  Technology
Verisign sues net oversight body
27 Feb 04 |  Technology
Whose net is it anyway?
19 Aug 05 |  Technology
Contentious net service dropped
06 Oct 03 |  Technology
Site finding system faces suspension
22 Sep 03 |  Technology
Site finding system under fire
19 Sep 03 |  Technology

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