Following about six months of competitive bidding, the announcement came late last week that VeriSign has officially retained control of .net, the Internet's third-largest domain. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the oversight body for the Internet's domain-name system, announced that it will enter into a new, six-year contract with VeriSign Inc. for the operation of .net. VeriSign, whose current contract to run .net expires at the end of the month, had been the front-runner to run .net since March, when an independent evaluation of the five bidders for the domain ranked VeriSign as the top choice. For the first time since its inception, .net was opened this year to competitive bidding among registries. Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign gained control of .net in 2000 when it acquired Network Solutions Inc., and Network Solutions had run the domain since 1992. In January, VeriSign and four other companies submitted bids for the management of .net. Along with .net, VeriSign is the registry for .com, the Internet's most popular domain. As a registry, VeriSign manages the main database of Web addresses in the domains and works with the so-called registrars, who sell registrations for particular domain names to individuals and businesses. Also this week, VeriSign issued its latest quarterly domain-name report and found that the number of registrations continued to increase at a record pace. In the first quarter of the year, about 6.7 million new domain names were registered worldwide, representing a 36 percent increase from the same period a year earlier and a 4 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2004, VeriSign said. In total, there were 76.9 million domain names registered at the end of the first quarter of 2005. VeriSign credited the domain-name growth to a strengthening economy, a continued increase in Internet users and the growing number of Websites registering domains for use in pay-per-click advertising programs. UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.