Network Solutions Becomes SSL Certificate Authority

Network Solutions has entered the SSL certificate market, continuing an expansion beyond its core domain name products. By becoming a certificate authority, NetSol will now compete against its former owner VeriSign, currently the largest seller of SSL certificates. VeriSign owned Network Solutions from 2000 until 2003, when it was sold to a private investment firm, Pivotal Private Equity. Network Solutions manages more than 6.5 million domain names, and recently expanded its web hosting business.

NetSol's Secure Link SSL products are being sold at netsolssl.com, with prices ranging from $99 to $159 for one-year certificates for individual domains, and $479 for a wildcard domain to secure multiple subdomains under a single domain. Network Solutions' certificates are chained to the GTE Cyber Trust Global Root Certificate, which means they inherit the trust level of the GTE root and thus will be supported by more than 99 percent of current web browsers. This approach is currently used by The Comodo Group, which also sells certificates chained from the GTE root certificate.

While the sale of SSL certificates can be profitable as a stand-alone business, SSL certificate sales also help establish customer relationships with e-commerce sites, which typically spend more on web services such as hosting and security. Network Solutions is selling certificates that verify the business details of a certificate applicant, also known as organization-validated certficates. VeriSign and Comodo are the largest players in this segment of the SSL market.

Other authorities, such as GeoTrust and Go Daddy, additionally sell SSL certificates that are validated by confirming that the applicant controls the domain name being secured, known as a domain-validated certificate. Organization-validated certificates account for 75 percent of the SSL certificates in use today, but domain-validated certificates have outsold them in recent months. In April, domain-validated certificates accounted for 57 percent of new sales.

Netcraft's SSL Survey provides detailed information about encrypted transactions and e-commerce, including the growth rate for SSL-enabled sites, and which operating systems, server software and certificates are most widely used on these sites.