VeriSign has dropped all its lawsuits against internet overseeing organisation ICANN, agreed to hand over ownership of the root zone, and in return been awarded control of all dotcoms until 2012.
The agreement is a huge boost to ICANN, dragged down by the lawsuits and fighting for autonomy against both the US government and the United Nations. But it also represents a significant victory for VeriSign's obstructive tactics as ICANN sought to establish its sway over the net.
We predicted the end of VeriSign's legal actions - first begun in February 2004 - back in May this year. Once the internet giant had signed a new contract for all dotnet domains, we argued, it will call off its lawyers.
That contract, which covers the dotnet registry until 2011, was awarded at the end of a highly-controversial tendering process that we demonstrated had been skewed in favour of VeriSign, and which drew complaints from all corners of the internet industry.
Even when signed, the contract drew heavy criticism for giving VeriSign a free hand in how it ran the registry and how much it was allowed to charge. Following some changes and an extended public consultation, that contract is due to be signed any day now. The timing of the ICANN-VeriSign agreement will not be seen as a coincidence. VeriSign gets to keep its two biggest assets - the dotcom and dotnet registries - and ICANN finally gets VeriSign's acceptance of its authority.
President and CEO of ICANN, Paul Twomey, was naturally delighted with the agreement: "This proposed agreement settles many of the long-standing points of tension between ICANN and VeriSign. The settlement opens the way for a constructive and productive relationship between ICANN and VeriSign that will benefit the global internet community, and further illustrates the benefits of a multi-stakeholder approach."
VeriSign appeared to be equally pleased. The general manager of its naming arm, Mark McLaughlin, said: "An agreement could not have been reached without both sides trying to find compromise and new solutions. VeriSign’s objective was to gain clarity and business certainty for Internet operators. We are confident that this agreement accomplishes that objective and provides a framework for strong industry-ICANN partnership based on clear definitions and processes."
VeriSign and ICANN have always had a difficult relationship. VeriSign existed before ICANN and originally possessed almost complete control of the internet. ICANN was created to oversee and open up the Internet which inevitably meant pulling power away from VeriSign in virtually every move it made.