It's a tie... VeriSign wins!

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It's time to reissue the contract for the .NET registry and ICANN's procedure for selecting a new registry involved having a beauty contest. They had a third party (Telcordia) evaluate the proposals and then selecting the highest-ranking proposal:
Immediately following the announcement of the evaluators' final rankings, the applicant who was ranked the highest will be invited to begin intensive and speedy negotiations with ICANN on the terms of the .NET registry operator agreement. ICANN's proposed form of agreement will be posted online on or about 31 January 2005. If the highest ranking applicant and ICANN are unable to reach a mutually acceptable agreement within two weeks following the release of the rankings, then (i) ICANN will prepare for the ICANN Board a summary of the contractual points in dispute, upon which the applicant will be invited to comment prior to its submission to the ICANN Board, and (ii) the ICANN staff will immediately begin negotiations with the next highest ranked applicant with the goal of reaching an agreement (and related appendices, as appropriate) mutually acceptable to that applicant and ICANN.

Telcordia has issued their report. Technically, VeriSign came out on top, but basically it's a tie between VeriSign and Sentan

Criterion Afilias CORE++ DENIC Sentan VeriSign
Applicant Ranking (overall) 3 5 4 2 1
High priority criteria 3 Blue 3 Blue
1 Red
4 Blue
1 Yellow
12 Blue 14 Blue
Medium priority criteria - 1 Blue - 1 Blue -
Pricing rank (medium priority) 1 4 5 2 2

Blue is best, yellow is questionable, red is bad.

Indeed, the report explicitly says that it's a tie:

Sentan and VeriSign are the leaders, Afilias and DENIC are in the second group and CORE++ is third. Within the first group, VeriSign has a small numerical edge over Sentan that is not statistically significant given the methodology used to rate the RFP responses. The stratification between the lead group (Sentan, VeriSign) and the other vendors is statistically significant.

The results of the site visits were not used to arrive at this ranking. However, in our professional judgment the results correspond to our impressions during the site visits. Sentan and VeriSign are highly professional organizations with mature quality processes. The risk to the operation of .NET is minimal if either organization is awarded the contract.

All that said, ICANN will now "promptly enter negotiations with the top-ranked applicant to reach a mutually acceptable registry agreement," which is to say VeriSign.

My take: this is a missed opportunity for ICANN to extract concessions from the vendors. If Sentan and VeriSign would both do a good job, then why pick VeriSign basically arbitrarily? Better to make both bid for the right to be the registry, either in terms of lower prices per domain or in terms of guarantees of better service. Isn't there still contention about VeriSign's sitefinder service? I'm not a lawyer, but Could ICANN require VeriSign to agree not to use SiteFinder on .net--or even .com?

UPDATE: Corrected where I said registrar where it should have been registry. Thanks to Grumpy for pointing this out.

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2 Comments

You say registrar, I say registry. Let's call the whole thing off!

Actually, apparently I say both registry *and* registrar, so I'm definitely wrong. I'll correct.

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