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The Verisign Shared Registration System: A 25-Year Retrospective

Every day, there are tens of thousands of domain names registered across the globe—often as a key first step in creating a unique online presence. Making that experience possible for Verisign-operated top-level domains (TLDs) like .com and .net is a powerful and flexible technology platform first introduced 25 years ago.

Thanks to the Shared Registration System (SRS)—a hardware and software system conceptualized, designed, and launched by our teams 25 years ago—we’re able to successfully manage relationships with approximately 2,000 ICANN-accredited registrars who generally submit more than 100 million domain name transactions daily. Over the past quarter century, the SRS has thrived and grown with the global internet, in large part because we’ve continuously scaled and evolved the technology to meet exponentially increasing global demand, and a rapidly changing cyberthreat landscape.

In addition to enabling domain name registration, the usefulness of the technology extends beyond Verisign and its registry operations: many other companies subsequently adopted SRS concepts and implemented their own shared registration systems, making its impact far-reaching and long-lasting.

In this blog post, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Verisign SRS by reflecting on the insight and collaboration that went into developing a structure for domain name registration in those early days of the internet’s mainstream adoption.

When It All Began

Network Solutions, which Verisign acquired in 2000, had been functioning as both the sole registry and registrar for TLDs including .com, .net, and .org prior to 1999. The SRS was initially developed to make domain name registration more competitive and to encourage greater international participation, consistent with The Framework for Global Electronic Commerce, a directive to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) to privatize the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS).

Work began in 1998 to develop and implement the SRS so that an unlimited number of registrars could provide domain name registration services, all under the administration of a common registry for each TLD. For several high-profile TLDs—including .com and .net—that registry was Network Solutions. That same year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—a multistakeholder not-for-profit organization dedicated to the management of key elements of the DNS—was formed.

Designing and Deploying the System

Over a period of several months, Network Solutions designed and installed the system, which was officially deployed on April 3, 1999. Through a testing period that ran through the second half of 1999, the number of test registrars grew from an initial five—AOL, CORE, France Telecom/Oleane, Melbourne IT, and Register.com—to more than 20 by the end of that year.

That same year, Network Solutions implemented modifications to the SRS so that a registrar could accept registrations and renewals in one-year increments, as well as enable a registrar to add one year to a registrant’s registration period when transferring a domain from one registrar to another. Once the SRS was live, it was made accessible to all ICANN-accredited registrars, providing each one with equivalent access to register domain names in the TLDs.

Moving Forward: The Extensible Provisioning Protocol

When the SRS was first launched, a simple protocol called the Registry-Registrar Protocol (RRP) was deployed to handle the registration and management of domain names by many registrars in one TLD. However, we recognized that the use of this protocol could only be temporary given the growth of the internet and the need for a registration system with increased scalability. Work on a more sophisticated registration system began almost immediately—in 1999—and that came in the form of the Extensible Provisioning Protocol, or EPP. EPP officially became an Internet Standard in 2009.

Today, EPP is used to register domain names and perform domain name-related functions, and there are over 2,000 ICANN-accredited registrars that all use EPP. EPP is central to the way that Verisign and many other authoritative registry operators do business: these registry operators work with domain name registrars to register domain names, and the registrars in turn offer a diverse range of domain name products to end users. Indeed, the simplicity of registering domains through EPP, and, for TLDs operated by Verisign, through the SRS, not only opened the door to easy access to domain name registration services, but also paved the way for new digital commerce and communications capabilities.

Powering Registrations in the Past, Present, and Future

For the past 25 years, the SRS has been a critical component of the internet’s backend technology, even though it’s not widely known outside the DNS community. Thanks to the foresight and planning of many talented technologists, we built and evolved this system in such a way that it has successfully supported hundreds of millions of domain name registrations across the globe, serving as a first step for many on the path to establishing durable online identities. Along the way, we’ve added support for new technologies, including DNSSEC and Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). We’ve made the system more secure by strengthening the domain name locking and transfer processes. We’ve also expanded the SRS to support additional TLDs administered by Verisign. In its own quiet way, the SRS has helped to support the dynamic growth of the internet, while prioritizing equivalent access to domain name registration.

Many of the people who worked on the launch of the SRS are still with Verisign today, myself included. We are fortunate to have the chance to continue working together—25 years later—always with an eye toward the future and how we can continue to help the internet grow and prosper.

By Scott Hollenbeck, Fellow at Verisign

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