In one fell swoop Verisign, the US based company that manages the .com and .net name spaces, has managed to assist spammers while simultaneously upsetting Microsoft, AOL and practically all the world's network operators.
Verisign has introduced what it calls "wild card" functionality to its domain name system (DNS) which means any mistyped URLs (for example, comptuerworld.com instead of computerworld.com) will be directed to a search engine page. That search engine, Site Finder, is owned by Verisign. Some network operators are calling this "typo-squatting".
While on the face of it this seems quite a simple move, network operators are up in arms.
ICONZ has already introduced software patches to block the move for its customers, says engineering manager John Russell.
"It's nothing more than sabotage and we're treating it as such."
Russell says the problem is that instead of non-valid domain names resolving as errors, they return a Site Finder search page.
"That means we can't do a simple check to find out if names are valid or not."
The problem with that is that most anti-spam products conduct this simple test as their first move in determining whether an email is spam or not. That means spammers will have a free shot at getting their mail past one of the most basic weapons in the anti-spam armoury.
"Verisign is on crack."
Russell says the move breaks one of the more fundamental pieces of the internet's architecture.
"They must roll it back. Surely they can see how much trouble it's causing."
Russell says ISPs all around the world are patching their servers so any website that is served from the IP address that Verisign is using for Site Finder will not resolve.
Free Parking's technical director, Craig St George, says the Verisign move is "clever, but painfully clever.
"It affects email servers as well. A basic function of most servers is to check whether the domain exists or not. That won't work now."
St George says the move will help spammers and at the same time upset both Microsoft MSN and AOL who both offer similar services for their customers.
"Those won't work now either."
However moves are already afoot to thwart Verisign's decision at a higher level. Around 80% of the world's name servers run on software called Bind and the non-profit organisation that publishes Bind, Internet Software Consortium, is releasing a patch for the software that will counteract Verisign's move.
Attempts to contact Verisign for comment were unsuccessful.