U.S. government makes Civil Investigative Demand about .web.
The long-running fight for the .web top level domain name has taken another turn as the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation.
Verisign CEO James Bidzos revealed the investigation on the company’s regularly scheduled earnings call today.
Bidzos said the company received a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) on January 18. He said this is similar to receiving a subpoena. The CID requested information about VeriSign’s potential operations of the .web TLD.
While he would not disclose much more information about the request, the antitrust question is interesting.
On the one hand, I’m not sure .web will be a true challenge to pre-2012 top level domain names given the lackluster uptake of new TLDs.
On the other hand, Verisign certainly saw .web as either a huge opportunity or a threat to its existing business. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have jumped through hoops to obtain the top level domain name.
Verisign paid $135 million to acquire the domain name. It wasn’t an applicant for the domain name but struck a deal with one of the other applicants.
The deal has drawn the ire of competing applicants. One is upset that it didn’t make money from a private auction in which the losers take the proceeds and the other is upset that it didn’t win the domain name.
Based on Verisign’s disclosure, it seems the CID has to do with potential antitrust issues with Verisign operating .web rather than how the top level domain was awarded.