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News Editor

Plenty found SiteFinder

Oct 27, 20034 mins
Enterprise Applications

Now we know why VeriSign remains so headstrong about quickly reactivating Site Finder – its suspended redirection service that appears to have generated little but ill will and bad press for the company. Turns out Site Finder also generated a boatload of traffic.

Now we know why VeriSign remains so headstrong about quickly reactivating Site Finder – its suspended redirection service that appears to have generated little but ill will and bad press for the company.

Turns out Site Finder also generated a boatload of traffic.

In August, VeriSign sites ranked only 135th in terms of overall visitors, according to a monthly accounting of Internet traffic conducted by comScore Media Metrix. This placed VeriSign in the company of sites operated by the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education (Nos. 133 and 134); in other words, not exactly your beachfront ‘Net real estate.

But that was before Site Finder started ushering alphabetically challenged Web surfers to a VeriSign site for “help” whenever they misspelled or mistyped a .com or .net URL. While VeriSign touts this automatic detour as a public service and pooh-poohs technical complaints about it, competitors, anti-spam vendors and a host of old-time Internet hands have portrayed the gambit as a nakedly commercial power grab.

This much appears beyond dispute: Internet users can’t spell, don’t know where they’re going, or both.

In September, VeriSign rocketed to No. 11 on the survey, nestled right up there with household names such as Amazon (No. 8) and Disney (No. 13). The 30.8 million visitors VeriSign welcomed last month represented more than a fivefold increase over August and dwarfed the monthly gains experienced by any other company. That the bulk arrived there by virtue of twitchy typing might taint the achievement, but as they say of bloop hits in baseball: They all look the same in a box score.

Oh, and that’s No. 11 with a bullet: The September gains for VeriSign reflect only about two weeks’ worth of SiteFinder-generated traffic, as the service was activated on Sept. 15. A full 30 days would no doubt have floated VeriSign even higher in the ranking – perhaps as high as the rarified air of the Top 5.

We won’t be certain about that for a while, of course, because VeriSign pulled Site Finder over into a rest area on Oct. 3.

(Pop quiz: What are the top 5 most-visited companies on the ‘Net, according to comScore Media Metrix? . . . Answer below.)

There were other interesting tidbits in this traffic report, including the revelation that the number of Internet users in the U.S. now exceeds 150 million. Math isn’t my strong suit, but in a country of 290 million or so, that sure looks like more than half. If you consider adults only, we’re probably talking two-thirds. Back out the prison population, the comatose and my dad – who needs to get an ATM card before graduating to the Internet – and the number of those online as a percentage of those who might reasonably be expected to be online starts creeping ever closer to 100%.

And, if you like looking at rankings and lists as much as Buzz, you might spot something like this: What on earth can explain the fact that two of the top 30 sites provide information about . . . the weather? The Weather Channel and attracted 23.6 million and 15.5 million visitors, respectively, in September.

This means that if the two weather sites merged and brought their current traffic along for the ride, the combined company would represent the eighth-most-visited destination on the ‘Net; a notch above Amazon.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re fuming about your local TV station wasting so much time dissecting every detail about tomorrow’s forecast. They know what sells.

Quiz answer: The five companies whose Web sites draw the most visitors are, in descending order: Microsoft, AOL Time Warner, Yahoo, eBay and Google.

Some days I swear my in-box is No. 6, but that’s not a complaint. The address is