The master-keeper of Internet addresses ending in ".com" and ".net" — two of the most popular domain name suffixes — said Thursday it would raise fees charged to register those names.
The annual levy for ".com" will increase 7 percent to $6.42, and the ".net" fee will go up 10 percent to $3.85. The per-name fees are what VeriSign Inc. collects from companies that sell domain names on its behalf, and such charges are generally incorporated in the prices companies, groups and individuals pay to register names.
With about 62 million ".com" names and 9.1 million ".net" names in use, VeriSign stands to ultimately make $29 million a year from the increase, which will take effect Oct. 15.
However, the price hike applies only to new name registrations and renewals, and customers can lock in the old prices until Oct. 14. Many brokers, known as registrars, offer multiyear deals for up to 10 years; Network Solutions, formerly owned by VeriSign, even offers a 100-year package.
VeriSign runs the Domain Name System computers that keep track of all the ".com" and ".net" names in use. Computers from around the world check them continually to find out how to reach ".com" and ".net" Web sites and pass along e-mail.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said the fee increases, the first since 1999, stem from a need to keep up with growing online use as well as threats from hackers.
"Over the last six years, VeriSign has dealt with two phenomenons when it came to the infrastructure," VeriSign spokesman Tom Galvin said.
He said VeriSign's DNS computers now get 30 billion queries a day, compared with 1 billion in 2000, while security exploits have grown eightfold over that period.
In February, the company announced Project Titan, an initiative to expand the capacity of its systems tenfold by 2010 — to 4 trillion queries a day. The extra capacity is needed to respond to any unusual surges from legitimate demand, as well as to overcome any denial-of-service attacks, in which hackers try to overwhelm the systems with fake traffic.
The price hike does not require any regulatory approval.
Under a deal reached in November with the U.S. Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit group that oversees Internet addressing policies, VeriSign could increase ".com" prices as much as 7 percent during four out of the six years the contract is in effect. The company may also raise fees during the other two years under limited conditions.
VeriSign also runs the computers that list all 266 domain name suffixes, such as ".fr" for France and ".biz" for businesses. Fees for other domains aren't going up, but VeriSign could use the ".com" and ".net" revenue to subsidize upgrades.
VeriSign shares increased 1 cent to close at $25.65 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.