The last week or so I noticed that sometimes when I typed in an incorrect address, instead of getting the usual 404 Not Found, my browser was redirected to a page owned by VeriSign.
What VeriSign has done with their so called service SiteFinder is to redirect all traffic from unregistered .net and .com to their SiteFinder. While other companies have done that before (Microsoft and AOL), it has always been on an application level and thus you as a user had the choice to turn it off.
This time the redirection occurs on an infrastructure level, that is VeriSign has configured domain name servers (DNS) and routers in order to enable this.
One direct obvious consequence is that now users don’t have a choice to opt-out. Another less obvious yet far more serious consequence is that suddenly all forms of Internet traffic (protocols) will be redirected; this including emails, file transfers and etc. Expect your anti-spam software to malfunction as it relies on checking invalid domains.
VeriSign argues that it is helping users of the Internet by presenting options when they type in an invalid address but who are they trying to fool. The main reason is as always money. When users use links to exit SiteFinder, VeriSign gets paid by advertisers. An annual estimate of $150 million has been mentioned.
I was once sharing an office with a tiny company whose idea was exactly this. Their application redirected users to pages sponsored by companies. The company never managed to attract enough advertisers or customers and soon went out of business.
I don’t think it is fair of VeriSign to misuse their position as an authorised registry to create a monopoly. Both GoDaddy and Popular Enterprises think the same and have both filed lawsuits against VeriSign.
Source: news item