The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN) has approved a proposal that will extend VeriSign's control over .com domain names and allow for a registration price increase.
Nine of ICANN's board members voted in favor of the settlement, five voted against, and one abstained from voting.
The agreement comes after a lengthy legal wrangle in which VeriSign sued ICANN, claiming that it was being prevented from adding new features to the .com and .net domain registries.
To be finalized, the deal must be approved by the U.S. Commerce Department. There is speculation that it might be rejected. Already, some members of Congress are urging the Commerce Department to turn it down on the basis of anticompetitive implications.
The decision by ICANN already is causing ire across the Web, with domain registrars especially critical of the proposed plan.
In his blog, GoDaddy.com founder and president Bob Parsons called the deal "absolutely shameful," and wrote that the proposal is a loud signal that major changes are needed at ICANN.
"If we don't take this opportunity and step up and replace the incredibly inept leadership at ICANN, it will go a long way in providing the United Nations with the ammunition it needs to begin taking control of the Internet," Parsons wrote. "The United Nations must never gain control of the Internet."
Macro and Micro
If the deal between ICANN and VeriSign goes through, changes likely will affect both individuals and the Internet community itself, noted John Berard, spokesperson for the Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT).
"Recently, we've seen China develop what is essentially a parallel Internet, which isn't under the control of ICANN," he said. "This deal could cause other countries to think about whether they want ICANN to have a role, and some might decide they don't."
China's action might end up being an early indication of a larger movement against ICANN, Berard added, with countries questioning the validity of ICANN to oversee domain-name issues.
On a micro level, prices are expected to rise for domain registrars, and Berard expects that many will be unhappy with having to pay more while VeriSign profits.
"ICANN just wanted to end the suit and stop paying legal fees," he noted. "But they ended up giving away the store. And, ironically, they've put themselves in a position where they could be a perpetual defendant if this deal goes through."