VeriSign, Inc. Template:Nasdaq is a company based in Mountain View, California that operates a diverse array of network infrastructure, including two of the Internet's thirteen root nameservers, the generic top-level domains for .com and .net, one of the largest SS7 signaling networks in North America, and the RFID directory for EPCGlobal. VeriSign also provides a variety of security and telecom services ranging from digital certificates, payments processing, and managed firewalls to mobile call roaming, toll-free call database queries and downloadable digital content for mobile devices. The company groups all of these functions under the banner of 'intelligent infrastructure' services.
VeriSign was founded in 1995 as a spin-off of the RSA Security certification services business. The new company received licenses to key cryptographic patents held by RSA and a time limited non-compete agreement. The new company served as a certificate authority (CA) — a role it still fulfills — and its initial mission was "providing trust for the Internet and Electronic Commerce through our Digital Authentication services and products." VeriSign now has more than 3,000,000 certificates in operation for everything from military to financial services and retail applications, making it the largest CA behind the encryption and authentication on the Internet, which most people recognize as the little padlock in their Web browser when shopping online.
The company held an Initial Public Offering on 30 January 1998 for US$14 a share. The pre-IPO investors included RSA Data Security Inc., Bessemer Ventures, Kleiner-Perkins, VISA International, Ameritech, Mitsubishi, Security Dynamics, and Fischer International. Along the way, VeriSign broadened its portfolio of "infrastructure services" by acquiring a number of additional businesses, including Network Solutions in 2000 (from which it derived the domain name business, and later spun off the customer-facing 'registrar' component), Illuminet in 2001 (which marked the company's first foray into telecommunications), Guardent in 2003 (which improved its managed security offering), and Jamba! in 2004 (which is called Jamster! in English-speaking countries and consists of downloadable digital content for mobile phones).
As of 2005, VeriSign takes in more than $1 billion in annual revenue ($1.17 billion for FY 2004) with more than 3000 employees worldwide. The CEO is Stratton Sclavos. The business is divided into two large divisions: Internet Services and Communications Services.
The Internet Services division includes Naming & Directory Services, which houses the domain name registry for .com and .net, as well as other DNS-related services, and RFID services; and Security Services, which spans a diverse set of capabilities. Security Services includes managed security services (firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, vulnerability protection, phishing response, etc.), email security (anti-spam, anti-virus), strong authentication (tokens and remote access validation), payment services (ecommerce transactions and fraud protection) as well as the original digital certificate/SSL business. VeriSign claims to handle 14 billion domain name system (DNS) inquiries daily, 35% of North American e-commerce, and encryption for the "majority" of secure Web sites.
The Communications Services group acts as a service provider to the global telecommunications sector, with a similarly diverse set of capabilities. The division offers a variety of services for both wireline and wireless telcos, including pre-paid and post-paid billing; network interoperability for text messaging and call roaming; and the database and mediation services that power caller ID, local number portability (LNP), wireless LNP, VoIP, call routing, toll-free call directories, and more. VeriSign also offers a white-labeled retail wireless content portal which it operates directly to consumer under the Jamba! and Jamster! brands. The stats on VeriSign's communications network are also impressive: 2.7 billion phone call connections, 10 million caller IDs, and 3 million game, ringtone and picture downloads per day.
In recent years, VeriSign has faced some contentious issues with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the quasi-governmental body that oversees Internet protocols. In September 2003, VeriSign introduced a service called Site Finder, which redirected web browsers to a search service when users attempted to go to nonexistent .com or .net domain names. ICANN asserted that VeriSign had overstepped the terms of its contract with the Dept. of Commerce, which in essence grants VeriSign the right to operate the DNS for .com and .net, and VeriSign shut down the service. Subsequently, VeriSign filed a lawsuit against ICANN in February 2004, seeking to gain clarity over what services it could offer in the context of ICANN's sometimes opaque governing process. The claim was moved from federal to California state court in August 2004 and is still pending. More information about the legal proceedings is available here.
In other negotiations with ICANN, VeriSign gave up operation of the .org top-level domain in 2003 in return for continued rights over .com, the largest domain with more than 34 million registered domain names. .org is now run by a partnership between the non-profit Internet Society (ISOC) and the Irish for-profit company Afilias, which also runs the .info domain. In mid-2005, the current contract for the operation of .net expires and numerous companies, including VeriSign, are bidding for control of it. VeriSign's bid is backed by numerous IT and telecom heavyweights including Microsoft, IBM, Sun Microsystems, MCI and others, which all assert that VeriSign has a perfect record operating .net which should be extended given the critical importance of .net as the domain that underlies numerous "backbone" network services. More info on the .net bidding process is available here.....
- Formed April 1995
- Netscape Server IDs ship June 1995
- Secure Email launched January 1996
- VeriSign Japan launched with NTT February 1996
- Code Siging launch with Microsoft March 1996
- US DOC approves Global ID to enable strong cryptographic software export June 1997
- SecureIT acquisition announced July 1998
- Managed PKI service version 4.0 October 1998
- Offers free Y2k testing certs November 1998
- Wireless PKI offering launched December 1999
- Thawte acquisition announced December 1999
- Signio acquisition announced February 2000
- Network Solutions acquired June 2000
- Illuminet acquired December 2001
- HO Systems acquisition February 2002
- Network Solutions registrar sold November 2003
- Guardent acquisition announced December 2003
- Jamba! acquired June 2004
- Lightsurf acquisition announced January 2005
- R4 Global Solutions acquisition announced May 2005
- iDefense acquisition announced July 2005
- Weblogs, Inc. acquisition announced October 2005
- Acquisition of Verisign's Payment Gateway assets by eBay(Paypal) announced October 2005
- VeriSign web site
- Thawte web site
- Washington Post (27.02.2004): Suit Challenges Powers of Key Internet Authority
- Washington Post (19.01.2005): Firms Bid to Control .net Addresses
- Washingont Post (28.03.2005): VeriSign Maintains Hold on .net Domain