The Site Finder page offers likely correct alternatives as well as search functions, browsing features and advertisements.
About a dozen companies, including AOL, MSN and the tiny Popular Enterprises of Florida, offer similar services that re-direct Web traffic when someone types a bad request.
Late Thursday, the eight-employee Popular Enterprises sued VeriSign in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla., saying the Mountain View company was abusing its control over Internet addresses at the expense of competitors. VeriSign “has essentially commandeered or `hijacked’ all of this Internet traffic for its own purpose and monetary gain,” the suit alleges, accusing VeriSign of unlawful monopoly, unfair competition, tortious interference and unfair trade.
Popular Enterprises estimated that damages “may very well exceed $100 million” and the company seeks an injunction against VeriSign.
Popular Enterprises said traffic to its similar offering, SmartBrowse, has decreased by well over 50 percent since VeriSign launched its product Monday. Popular Enterprises’ SmartBrowse is free, but the company makes its money by directing traffic to Web sites that pay for search listings.
“It’s a misuse of power entirely,” said Robert Hart, Popular Enterprises’ marketing director. “VeriSign’s using something that isn’t really theirs — “.com” and “.net” — which was entrusted to them by public agencies, and they’re manipulating that for profit and monopolizing the business we’ve been in for years.”
VeriSign has a government-sanctioned monopoly to maintain the master lists of “.com” and “.net” domain names. The company has the ability to intercept and redirect bad address requests — about 20 million a day. By Friday, more than 10 million of those were being directed to its Site Finder page, according to VeriSign.