ISC releases patch to block VeriSign's Site Finder

FRAMINGHAM (09/17/2003) - The Internet Software Consortium (ISC), the nonprofit group that publishes BIND (Berkeley Internet Name Domain) software, which runs 80 percent of domain name servers, has released a patch that will block VeriSign Inc.'s new Site Finder service.

According to the Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign, Site Finder is a navigation tool that improves the users' Web browsing experience by directing users who mistype a Web address ending in .com or .net to its own search pages. Site Finder offers users alternatives to the incorrect address, some of which are owned by companies that have paid VeriSign to be placed on Site Finder.

"The official story (from VeriSign) is when users on the Internet make mistakes, they would like to have a (more) useful error message like going to a search page that would help them find what they were really looking for," said Paul Vixie, president of the Redwood City, Calif.-based ISC. "I guess VeriSign wants to sell advertising."

VeriSign spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy said Site Finder is much like a service America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp. already use to redirect mistyped queries. He said that anytime there's an innovation some people who are satisfied with the status quo will speak out.

But Vixie said the change can cause problems for mail servers. "Yesterday, my phone started ringing off the hook from various people saying, 'VeriSign is killing us. You've got to help me,'" Vixie said.

After some investigation, Vixie learned about Site Finder. On Wednesday, the ISC released the software update that allows users to block Site Finder if they choose.

Vixie said users are concerned that they no longer get an error message when a domain didn't exist.

"We're talking about mail servers and electronic mail and other types of protocol besides Web protocol," he said. "The lack of a reliable indication of nonexistence meant that a lot of people were carrying traffic that they shouldn't, or they were not able to detect spam based on forged sources because there's no longer any such thing as a nonexistent domain -- they all exist now. It rubbed a lot of people the wrong way."

O'Shaughnessy said that because the service is only several days old, it still needs to be modified and that VeriSign is working with the Internet community to develop any necessary fixes.

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