VeriSign teams with eBay to verify users

Worrying about whether the US$250 you sent to an eBay Inc. user will ever be transformed into that promised rare baseball card could soon be less of a concern, after VeriSign Inc. and eBay announced plans Wednesday to partner on an authentication system for eBay users.

The multiyear deal will employ VeriSign's Authentication Service Bureau to register eBay sellers, said Anil Pereira, an executive vice president at Mountain View, California-based VeriSign. The service will help to verify that sellers are who they say they are and that the addresses and phone numbers they provide correspond to actual locations, he said.

"VeriSign is going to take over the registration process for new sellers on eBay," said Kevin Pursglove, senior director of communications at San Jose, California-based eBay. New verification information will be gathered at registration for new sellers only and the process of collecting that information "will be fairly transparent" to users, he said.

Existing eBay sellers won't be asked to provide new information because eBay feels it has done a good job screening existing users and because it will "be a chore enough just to handle the new registrations," Pursglove said. The registration changes will roll out over the next few months, he added.

The Authentication Service Bureau, which VeriSign started about a year ago to authenticate online transactions among businesses and consumers, has connections to major consumer, medical, voter registration and financial databases and can use the information in those databases for authentication, VeriSign's Pereira said. The verification information for eBay sellers will include only a name, address and phone number, he said.

Authenticating users is "one way of fostering more trust in the online community," he said.

Beyond authenticating users, VeriSign will also integrate another aspect of its business with eBay -- the registration of Web addresses, or Internet domain names. Under the deal, a new eBay marketplace will be created specifically for domain names, Pereira said.

The marketplace will give eBay users the option to bid on premium domain names, he said. The first domain names to be included in the marketplace will be .bz domains, and will likely be followed by expired and multilingual domains, he said. Domains that are included in the eBay marketplace will also be available for registration through traditional channels, he added.

Pereira dismissed the notion that auctioning domains will force users to pay more for the Web addresses they want.

The auctions "(won't) mean that you're just charging premium prices for everything," he said.

"There's no palace intrigue here," he said. "This is more of a segmentation."

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