Web address provider VeriSign Inc. said on Friday it would suspend a controversial new service that steers mistaken Web searches to its own page after the organization that oversees Internet policies demanded it do so.
Earlier on Friday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers issued a statement insisting that VeriSign halt its SiteFinder service and restore the ".com" and ".net" Web domains to the way they were before Sept. 15, when VeriSign began the service.
ICANN gave VeriSign until 6 p.m. PDT to comply with the request or face sanctions for violating its contract with ICANN.
"We will accede to the request while we explore all of our options," VeriSign spokesman Tom Galvin told Reuters.
VeriSign has defended its move, saying it was providing a convenience to Internet users who previously received an error message. The SiteFinder service directs searches for Web addresses that have been mistyped or not registered to a page that includes pay-for-placement topic links.
But Internet users, network administrators and rivals have cried foul, claiming VeriSign overstepped its authority.
"There have been widespread expressions of concern about the impact of these changes on the security and stability of the Internet," ICANN said in its statement.
SiteFinder is rendering spam filters ineffective, adversely affecting other automated Web tools and services and creating a single point of failure "that is likely to be attractive to deliberate attacks" and raising serious privacy issues, according to ICANN.
VeriSign's activation of SiteFinder is "not consistent" with its contract to serve as the main database keeper of all addresses in the ".com" and ".net" domains, ICANN added.
With the service, VeriSign is violating the contract's code of conduct and equal access obligations and failing to act as a neutral registry service provider, among other things, ICANN said.
Galvin said ICANN was using "anecdotal and isolated issues to attempt to regulate non-registry services, but in the interests of further working with the technical community, we will temporarily suspend SiteFinder."
Thwarting efforts such as providing new services will hinder innovation on the Internet, he added.
At least three lawsuits by other Internet companies have been filed against VeriSign over the service.
ICANN previously asked VeriSign to suspend the service, but VeriSign instead said it would form an advisory panel.
VeriSign is not the first registry to test or implement a so-called "redirect" service. But its service impacts the majority of Web searches, as opposed to addresses ending in other domains, such as .biz.
VeriSign's SiteFinder service has been used more than 40 million times by Internet users in just over two weeks, Galvin said.