Verisign is up to their games again, this time mucking around with the very fabric of the Internet. I realize this is old news, and I'm a bit delinquent with a post about it, but it occurred to me that perhaps if I post a link to the petition then I could add about 3 signatures (assuming that all three people who read my blog sign).
Shortcut: Here's the petition. Have a look and sign it if you agree.
Verisign plays a unique dual role when it comes to domain names. They're most visible to the general public as a “registrar”…one of the companies that is authorized to sell domain names to the general public. In that arena, they compete with companies like GoDaddy, Register.com, and various others. OpenSRS is another registrar, although their business model is a bit different; they sell wholesale to “Registration Service Providers” who sell to the public.
But there's another part of Verisign that is the “registry operator”…the organization that is responsible for actually running the registry for .com and .net (the two most popular domain extensions). As the registry operator, Verisign weilds enormous power in how the Internet works. They have responsibility for the 13 centralized “root servers” and must keep them updated on a regular basis. Understand that this is a “stewardship” role; they don't own this stuff.
Recently, Verisign decided to intercept requests for domain names that have not been registered, and re-route those requests to a website that they control. On the surface, it seems like a good idea: When you misspell a domain name in your browser, you'll land on a search page that will “help” you find the site you were looking for, rather than getting an error page in your browser.
But this breaks a lot of things, and is an abuse of the stewardship role that Verisign plays with regard to the registry. It breaks things because some applications actually expect the registry to behave in a certain way, and this new “feature” has suddenly (and with virtually no warning) changed this expected behavior. It breaks some spam filters (that check for non-existent domains) by returning inaccurate responses to their queries.
More than anything, it's a problem because Verisign is using its power as the registry operator to line its own pockets. It is NOT doing this for magnanimous reasons…it's doing it to make money on advertising.
If you're still curious, I posted some additional thoughts on the OpenSRS discussion list that you may find interesting.