Network Solutions Inc.'s parent selling database information

VeriSign Inc. is stepping up its efforts to sell marketers some of the routine information gathered when a company registers a Web address with its subsidiary Network Solutions Inc. (NSI).

Herndon, Va.-based NSI has been selling the data for some time, but it is now moving more aggressively to sell it by sponsoring newsletters distributed to direct marketers, VeriSign spokeswoman Cheryl Regan said today. The typical data buyers are Internet service providers, Web hosting companies and telecommunications companies, she said.

The data being sold by NSI is gathered when a company registers a domain name with NSI, which was the original Web registrar under a contract with the U.S. government. The information includes the company's name, street address, telephone number and e-mail address. San Francisco-based VeriSign acquired NSI in March (see story).

All of this data is available at NSI's Web site under the "Who Is" database, which NSI is required to make public. However, anyone who wants the full set of data has to sift through one Web site at a time. NSI's offer provides the data in one batch, but "scrubs" it first by stripping out e-mail addresses and ensuring that only companies, not individuals, are included, according to Regan.

"It's good data, and there's a demand for it," Regan said. "We have been doing it with safeguards in place and to our own privacy guidelines."

These guidelines include a provision that allows companies to opt out at the time they register their domain names, or later on. However, Regan said, it's rare that a company opts out. NSI also matches the data against a Dun & Bradstreet Corp. database to make sure it's a registered business. The data is useful to companies that want to send direct postal mail to Web businesses or that want to merge it with data they already have. Also, NSI has a "good feel" for companies that are getting on the Internet and when companies will need other services, Regan said.

The data also offers marketers information about whether sites registered with NSI are active and whether they are set up for e-commerce. NSI does this by using electronic robots that can determine whether a company uses language such as "submit payment" on its Web site, Regan said. In addition, it uses statistical analysis to help discern when a company that purchases a domain name is likely to open the site for business.

Other companies have mounted similar money-making tactics only to be shouted down by privacy and consumers' rights advocates, but VeriSign says it isn't stepping into that controversy because the data is publicly available at the "Who Is" database, Regan said.

By the end of last year, NSI had registered 15 million domain names, but Regan said not all those would be included in the data that's for sale because the data includes only companies and because many companies register more than one name. VeriSign expects to make money on the sale of the data, but Regan said it would be a fraction of 1% of the company's overall revenue for 2001, which is projected to be between $750 million and $1 billion. Regan said VeriSign hasn't disclosed the price of the data.

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Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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