VeriSign Right There In The Middle With LightSurf
By Mike Masnick, Mon Jan 10 23:45:00 GMT 2005

VeriSign's strategy may seem all over the map, but when you look at the details, it's clear that it's right in the middle of things -- literally. That may not be such a good sign for those who believe in a decentralized and open mobile Internet.


VeriSign has been doing a lot of wheeling and dealing lately, much of it in the mobile space, capped off with today's announcement that it's buying MMS firm LightSurf Technologies. While some of these acquisitions may not seem to make much sense, the overall picture for VeriSign is quite clear: it wants to be right in the middle of everything happening on any network.

VeriSign's claim to fame has been that it runs the dot com domain registry. Its core competence is managing those massive databases in the middle, that others have to go through to get anything done on the network. VeriSign's CEO, Stratton Sclavos, refers to this as the "intelligent infrastructure". If that sounds sort of like the opposite to David Isenberg's "stupid network" you might get an idea where this is headed. Consumer pressure may force operators to open up and allow the "smarts" to travel down to the end points, but VeriSign is still betting that, behind the scenes, as much as possible will need to go through its machines first -- whether for security, to locate an address, to validate some content or to send a message to the right recipient.

In the mobile space, VeriSign's big move last year was to purchase Jamba -- which has turned into something of a success already. However, VeriSign's plans aren't about selling ringtones and games to people on their mobile phones, but in providing that centralized system to offer the ability for anyone to sell any content -- with VeriSign getting a little piece of the action. With the purchase of LightSurf, the company moves even further into the messaging space (where it already has a presence). While the initial News.com article above suggests this is due to the "success" of MMS (something many people would probably question), what it really does is put VeriSign in the position to, once again, be in the middle for more messaging offers, where, once again, it hopes to get a piece of the action.

No matter what operators end up doing to open up, having everything first have to go through VeriSign's centralized databases may make it a bit more difficult for the mobile Internet to be as open and free as many have been hoping. VeriSign is clearly (but quietly) putting together all of the pieces so that nearly all mobile content and messaging somehow first needs to touch one of its services. The grand vision increasingly looks to be about putting the "smarts" of the network right back in the middle -- completely under VeriSign's control.