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VeriSign to battle rivals for .net domain control

Domain registry giant will face competition for first time, as four other companies vie for spot as operator of .net domain.

Five companies on Wednesday officially announced their intent to compete for the .net domain registry, including current registry operator VeriSign.

VeriSign faces stiff competition for the first time in its efforts to retain its spot as operator of the registry--a position that controls more than 5 million .net domain names and 3 trillion annual page views.

"During the .net bidding process, there will be a lot of claims by the operators of what they can do. But their track record is reported to ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and published on ICANN's site," said Tom Galvin, a VeriSign spokesman. "VeriSign is eager to have others compare our track record verses our competitors. We consistently meet the commitment requirements and exceed them."

He noted that VeriSign, which has spent $150 million on its Internet infrastructure, has met such service requirements as keeping its outage time below a certain level and resolving domain names disputes.

VeriSign will compete against NeuLevel, which oversees the .us and .biz domains, Afilias, which runs .info, DENIC, which handles Germany's .de domain names, and Core++, a global consortium of domain registrars, registry operators, and telecommunications and networking companies.

ICANN closed the bidding process Tuesday and is expected to name the .net registry's new operator in March. The .net contract between VeriSign and ICANN expires June 30.

VeriSign and ICANN are currently embroiled in a lawsuit, in which VeriSign alleges that ICANN violated its contract and antitrust laws by preventing it from adding new features. Such features included the controversial Site Finder utility, which redirected all misspelled or unassigned .com and .net domain names to a search page owned by VeriSign. ICANN is using an independent party to review the .net bids.

VeriSign will go up against a familiar competitor in Afilias. Back in January 2003, VeriSign transferred the .org domain registry to the Public Interest Registry, which was using Afilias for its back-end technical duties. That transfer was part of an agreement VeriSign struck with ICANN in order to retain the more lucrative .com registry.

"We are the only (.net competitors) with transitioning experience," said Heather Carle, an Afilias spokeswoman. "We were able to successfully get the data out of VeriSign's system and put it into our system, without disruption to the .org users."

The transfer entailed 2.6 million .org domains, she noted.

German domain registry DENIC, meanwhile, stressed its ability to be an international player as one of its advantages in operating the .net registry. DENIC currently manages more than 8 million .de domains.

"All of the current operators of generic (top-level domains) are located in North America, and many members of the international Internet community are calling for an expanded international presence in domain management," Sabine Dolderer, a DENIC executive board member, said in a statement.

NeuLevel and Japan Registry Service are partnering to bid on the .net registry. The two companies, through their joint venture, Sentan Registry Services, highlighted their past performance with the .biz registry, describing it as "scalable, stable and reliable."