Via E-mail and U.S. Mail
Executive Vice President, General Manager
VeriSign Naming and Directory Services
21345 Ridgetop Circle LS2-3-2
Dulles, VA 20166-6503
Re: Deployment of SiteFinder Service
This letter is further to the advisory posted by ICANN on 19 September 2003 regarding the changes to the operation of the .com and .net Top Level
Domains announced by VeriSign on 15 September 2003, and in response to your letter of 21 September 2003. These changes involved the introduction (for
the first time in the .com and .net domains) of a so-called "wildcard" mechanism that changes the expected error response for Internet traffic that
would otherwise have resulted in a "no domain" response, and redirects that traffic to a VeriSign-operated webpage with links to alternative choices
and to a search engine.
Because of numerous indications that these unannounced changes have
had very significant impacts on a wide range of Internet users and
applications, ICANN on 19 September 2003 asked VeriSign to
voluntarily suspend these changes, and return to the previous behavior
of .com and .net, until more information could be gathered on the impact
of these changes.
In the time since then, ICANN has had further opportunity to
consider the technical and practical consequences of these changes, and
to evaluate whether these unilateral actions by VeriSign were consistent
with its contractual obligations to ICANN.
Based on the information currently available to us, it appears that
these changes have had a substantial adverse effect on the core
operation of the DNS, on the stability of the Internet, and on the
relevant domains, and may have additional adverse effects in the future.
These effects appear to be significant, including effects on web
browsing, certain email services and applications, sequenced lookup
services and a pervasive problem of incompatibility with other
established protocols. In addition, the responses of various persons
and entities to the changes made by VeriSign may themselves adversely
affect the continued effective functioning of the Internet, the DNS and
the .com and .net domains. Under these circumstances, the only prudent
course of action consistent with ICANN's coordination mission is to
insist that VeriSign suspend these changes pending further evaluation
and study, including (but certainly not limited to) the
already scheduled by ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee
on 7 October in Washington, D.C.
In addition, our review of the
between ICANN and VeriSign leads us to the conclusion that
VeriSign’s unilateral and unannounced changes to the operation of
the .com and .net Top Level Domains are not consistent with material
provisions of both agreements. These inconsistencies include violation
of the Code of Conduct and equal access provisions, failure to comply
with the obligation to act as a neutral registry service provider,
failure to comply with the Registry Registrar Protocol, failure to
comply with domain registration provisions, and provision of an
unauthorized Registry Service. These inconsistencies with VeriSign's
obligations under the .com and .net registry agreements are additional
reasons why the changes in question must be suspended pending further
evaluation and discussion between ICANN and VeriSign.
Given these conclusions, please consider this a formal demand to
return the operation of the .com and .net domains to their state before
the 15 September changes, pending further technical, operational and
legal evaluation. A failure to comply with this demand will require
ICANN to take the steps necessary under those agreements to compel
compliance with them.
Various press reports have quoted VeriSign representatives as being
concerned about the processes by which changes in the operation of
top-level domains are evaluated and approved by ICANN. I share those
concerns. The introduction by registry operators of new products or
services that do not threaten adverse effects to the Internet, the DNS
or the top-level domains which they operate should not be impeded by
unnecessary or prolonged processes. On the other hand, VeriSign, like
other operators of top level domains, occupies a critical position of
public trust, made even more important given the fact that it is the
steward for the two largest generic top level domains. This means that
VeriSign has both a legal and a practical obligation to be responsible
in its actions in operating those top level domains.
To ensure that this obligation is carried out, there must be a timely,
transparent and predictable process for the determination of the
likelihood that a proposed change in the operation of a generic
top-level domain under contract with ICANN will have significant
adverse effects. To this end, I will be asking the GNSO to begin to
create such a procedure, taking into particular account any comments
submitted by other ICANN advisory bodies, liaisons, and constituencies.
I will request the GNSO to make its recommendations no later than 15
If, during this period, further technical and operational evaluations
of the changes made by VeriSign on 15 September indicate that those
measures can be reinstated, or reinstated with modifications, without
adverse effects, I will initiate the process to modify the .com and .net
agreements to allow those changes to take place. We will use best
efforts to complete these evaluations in a timely manner.
If, on the other hand, these ongoing evaluations confirm the claimed
adverse effects on the Internet, the DNS or the .com and .net domains
that have been publicized to date, or raise new concerns of that type,
those concerns will have to be resolved prior to any reintroduction of
these changes. If any such concerns cannot be resolved, and VeriSign
continues to seek to implement the service, it will be necessary to make
recourse to the dispute resolution provisions of the two agreements.
Given the magnitude of the issues that have been raised, and their
potential impact on the security and stability of the Internet, the DNS
and the .com and .net top level domains, VeriSign must suspend the
changes to the .com and .net top-level domains introduced on 15
September 2003 by 6:00 PM PDT on 4 October 2003. Failure to comply with
this demand by that time will leave ICANN with no choice but to seek
promptly to enforce VeriSign's contractual obligations.
I look forward to VeriSign's compliance by the date specified.
President and CEO
Chuck Gomes - Vice President, VeriSign Naming and Directory Services
Kevin Golden, Esq. - Senior Corporate Counsel, VeriSign, Inc.