VeriSign Inc. has won its bid to manage the .net registry, home to more than 5 million Internet domains, for the next five years, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced today.

Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign has operated the .net registry since May 2001 and beat out four other bidders during a process than began in March 2004. It also operates the .com domain name.

In a statement, VeriSign officials said the company is "gratified" to be chosen again and recognized for "stellar" performance and said it would work with ICANN and the Internet community to expand the .net domain and improve its reliability.

In January, Telcordia Technologies Inc., an independent consulting firm in Piscataway, N.J., hired by ICANN to evaluate the five bids, picked VeriSign as slightly better than the other four bidders, based on its experience and the price of its bid. VeriSign exceeded expectations in 14 high-priority categories, Telcordia said. ICANN said then it would begin negotiations with the leading bidder.

Rivals had complained about Telcordia's evaluation, but ICANN said its board considered the entire bidding process, the Telcordia report, Internet community comments and the terms of the new agreement. Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based ICANN is the nonprofit organization that oversees technical matters related to the Internet.

VeriSign earns an estimated $26 million a year for operating the .net domain, according to analysis by Legg Mason Inc. The .net domain supports more than $700 billion in e-commerce, as well as 3 trillion Web page views, a year, according to VeriSign.

VeriSign's old .net contract with ICANN was set to expire June 30.