September 21, 2003 7:10 PM PDT

ICANN asks VeriSign to pull redirect service

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The agency that oversees Internet domain names has asked VeriSign to voluntarily suspend a new service that redirects Web surfers to VeriSign's site when they try to reach unassigned Web addresses.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Friday posted a notice on its Web site with its response to the so-called wildcard service, which launched Sept. 15. The wildcard service sends people to a VeriSign page with search results, including links to paid advertisements. Until now, Web surfers would have gotten an error message. VeriSign runs the registry for the .com and .net domains--among the most widely used top-level domains on the Web. The wildcard service is for .com and .net domains.

ICANN said it is investigating complaints about the wildcard service and asked VeriSign to pull it, pending further study.

"Recognizing the concerns about the wildcard service, ICANN has called upon VeriSign to voluntarily suspend the service until the various reviews now under way are completed," the agency wrote in a notice posted on its Web site.

On Saturday, the Internet Architecture Board also weighed in on the controversy with an analysis of domain name system (DNS) wildcards. The group recommended that "DNS wildcards should not be used in a zone unless the zone operator has a clear understanding of the risks, and that they should not be used without the informed consent of those entities which have been delegated below the zone."

Criticism has been growing over Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign's surprise decision to take control of unassigned .com and .net domain names, which has confused antispam utilities and drawn angry denunciations of the company's business practices from frustrated network administrators.

Verisign could not immediately be reached late Sunday.

Last week, the company stood by its new service.

"There is a lot of fiction about the actual technology and the service," VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy had said. "What we are doing is trying to determine fact and fiction, and we're doing so by reaching out to the technology community and helping them to understand exactly what is fact and fiction."

VeriSign is not alone in seeking to replace DNS errors. Microsoft has also directed people who use its Internet Explorer Web browser to a Microsoft search page when they mistype certain domain names in the browser's URL bar.

CNET News.com's Declan McCullagh contributed to this report.

 

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