GoDaddy Files Suit Against VeriSign

Tina Reilly
Scottsdale, Ariz. -- In the continuing battle against VeriSign's Site Finder service, Go Daddy Software, Inc. is the latest litigant to join in on the fray against the controversial paid advertising service that redirects mistyped or misspelled domain traffic back to its own network.

GoDaddy.com, a domain name registrar and software provider, filed its lawsuit in the Federal District Court of Arizona seeking an injunction against Site Finder to take down its service.

Christine Jones, legal advisor for Go Daddy, told XBiz that her company is accusing VeriSign of misusing its position as the controller of the .com and .net domain names to gain unfair competitive advantage over smaller domain registrars and similar search services.

"From our perspective, we feel that VeriSign is inappropriately using its monopoly position to its own economic advantage," Jones told XBiz. "That was never intended to be the case when they were given the .com and .net registry monopoly."

According to Go Daddy, there are many instances where Site Finder is re-directing or "hijacking" Internet traffic from domain names that already exist, or are in dispute. Site Finder is based on a wildcard address record that captures virtually all misfired attempts to reach sites in the .com and .net domain range.

Go Daddy also contends that VeriSign stands to profit immensely by taking those misspelled domain names and re-directing users to competitive sites, hence creating a flurry of domain registrations from companies afraid of losing business.

"VeriSign should be held to higher standards because of their position, just like Microsoft and AT&T have been in the past," Jones continued. "They have a responsibility to the Internet community and the most important thing is that the Site Finder service affects not just us, but ever single living soul who goes on the Internet. There is a public policy interest in having Site Finder taken down, not just because Go Daddy stands to lose money but because they have a responsibility and they are abusing it."

Prior to Site Finder, when domain addresses were misspelled, the user's browser, either Netscape or Internet Explorer, would generate an informational page advising the user that the domain address is invalid.

Not even a month after its Sept. 15 launch, Site Finder has raised the ire of many companies and organizations involved in the Internet industry.

Just last week, VeriSign got slammed with a $100 million antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of Florida-based Popular Enterprises, parent company of Netster.com, a similar search service. Popular Enterprises is accusing VeriSign of stealing traffic from other similar services like Nester.com and its search toolbar product SmartBrowser.

In similar allegations against the domain registry, Popular Enterprises charged that VeriSign is involved in antitrust violations, unfair competition and violations of the Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The company has also asked the court to order VeriSign to put a halt to the service.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) put out the call this week for VeriSign to voluntarily suspend the Site Finder service until various reviews by its Security and Stability Advisory Committee were completed. But at this time, ICANN and VeriSign have both agreed to continue "monitoring community reaction."

Russell Lewis, executive vice president and general manager for VeriSign responded to ICANN's request by saying: "As to your call for us to suspend the service, I would respectfully suggest that it would be premature to decide on any course of action until we first have had an opportunity to collect and review the available data. After completing an assessment of any operational impact of our wildcard implementation, we will take any appropriate steps necessary."

Lewis concluded by saying that so far, all indications are that users are benefiting from the improved web navigation tools Site Finder has to offer the Internet community.

"These results are consistent with the findings from the extensive research we performed," Lewis stated.