VeriSign went on the offensive against critics of its Site Finder service Tuesday, issuing a lengthy rebuttal to the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) complaints about the new service, designed to direct users who mistype an Internet domain name towards a legitimate Web site.
The statement from VeriSign followed public comments by company executives Monday that defended Site Finder and charged the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with "micro-managing" the new service.
VeriSign complied with an ICANN request last week that the company shut down Site Finder. ICANN said that Site Finder hobbled antispam filters and automated tools like Web spidering applications, and hampered the ability of some applications to determine whether or not an Internet domain existed.
Site Finder was launched on Sept. 15 after what VeriSign claims was more than a year of testing. The service replaced a system in which user requests for nonexistent domain names on the .com and .net domains, which VeriSign manages, returned error messages.
With Site Finder, those requests were "wildcarded," meaning that the alternate spellings were not rejected but instead brought users to the Site Finder Web site, maintained by VeriSign, which included a search engine, a listing of similarly spelled names under the heading "Did you Mean" and categorical groupings of Web sites.
The Mountain View, California company responded at length to an IAB commentary on VeriSign's domain wildcarding scheme. (See: http://www.iab.org/documents/docs/2003-09-20-dns-wildcards.html.) In a point-by-point response to the IAB report, VeriSign countered the main criticisms of the domain wildcarding scheme.
Contrary to IAB claims, VeriSign said that it had no evidence that Site Finder increased e-mail traffic to Mail Transfer Agents, which route e-mail messages on the Internet. The IAB claimed that Site Finder increased the traffic through mail systems because e-mail sent to nonexistent domains, which would have been rejected, was now being routed to Site Finder's servers.
In response to the IAB claim that Site Finder could drive up costs for organizations that paid for Web site hosting on the basis of traffic volume, VeriSign said it was "not aware" of any concerns that the 17K byte Site Finder Web page had increased Web hosting costs, compared with the old error message page.
VeriSign downplayed the effect that Site Finder was having on antispam tools that used the old error messages to identify spam sent from phony Web domains. An investigation of "major" antispam software companies and service providers showed that the method was not a "widely implemented mechanism for spam identification and discovery," VeriSign said.
Responding to criticism from the IAB and others that Site Finder replaced error messages localized into the language of the Internet user with an English-only Web site, VeriSign questioned whether technical messages in a familiar language were more useful than the Site Finder tools in English.
Nevertheless, the company said it was "actively working" on versions of Site Finder in German, Japanese, Spanish and Chinese.
Betting on the Site Finder's continuation and addressing the IAB's concern that attempts to circumvent Site Finder were creating further instability on the Internet, VeriSign also published a link to a new guide that will help software application developers better use the new DNS wildcarding service and avoid workarounds that violate Internet standards. (See: http://sitefinder.versign.com/pdf/sitefinderdevguide.pdf.)
While sticking to its contention that Site Finder improved the "user experience" on the Internet, VeriSign said it was looking forward to an "open dialog" with the IAB on Site Finder in the future.