VeriSign moved a step closer to renewing its contract to operate the .net domain registry this week after an independent evaluator ranked its bid higher than those of the four other contenders.
In a report released Monday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), evaluator Telcordia Technologies rated VeriSign's proposal for .net as "exceeding requirements" in 14 high priority categories, putting it in the lead to win the bid.
The independent evaluation is a critical factor in deciding which bidder will operate .net when VeriSign's existing contract expires on June 30. The coveted domain supports more than US$700 billion in e-commerce annually, as well as 3 trillion Web page views a year, according to VeriSign.
The new contract will be offered for at least six years. VeriSign has held its current .net contract since May 2001. The Mountain View, California, company also manages the .com registry.
ICANN, the nonprofit organization that oversees technical matters related to the Internet, issued a request for proposals on the new .net contract in December. Four challengers to VeriSign threw their hats into the ring: Dublin-based registry services provider Afilias, Sentan Registry Services, Core++, representing a consortium of partners from various businesses providing registry management services, and German domain registry Denic.
The Telcordia report puts VeriSign on top based on factors such as technical competence, stability and security, but the company is closely followed by Sentan, which was rated by the evaluator as exceeding requirements in 12 high priority categories. Afilias, Denic and Core++ trailed far behind, effectively turning the bid into a two-horse race.
Telcordia concluded in its report that the risk to the operation of .net is minimal if either Sentan or VeriSign wins the contract.
ICANN is now inviting the Internet community to review the report, which is available on its Web site at http://www.icann.org. The Marina Del Rey, California, organization will then enter into negotiations with the top contenders to reach an acceptable agreement, it said.