Verisign Inc. announced an extensive agreement with Netscape Communications Corp. to deliver digital certificate services through the Netcenter portal.

Verisign is getting "premier provider" status and will develop a Security Center within the Netscape site to promote and educate the market about electronic authentication technology, the Silicon Valley companies said Tuesday.

"We have seen a high degree of customer interest in understanding security," Verisign president and chief executive officer Stratton Sclavos said of the business users of electronic commerce, the companies' immediate target. "There are usually very small groups of experts in the organizations we deal with. The people are looking for help and a place to come to roll out security applications."

Mr. Sclavos said "daytime business use" of Netcenter will help digital authentication cross over into the mass market because "people go home and use Netcenter or AOL for banking or other purposes."

Verisign and Netscape, which counts 10 million Netcenter users, characterized their alliance as the first that results in a one-stop digital security service. It builds on a relationship that began in 1995, early in both companies' lives.

Netscape continues to work with other certificate vendors, as does Verisign with Netscape rival Microsoft Corp., which owns a small piece of Verisign. But Netscape wants to give "certificate authorities willing to make a high service-level commitment" preferential treatment, and Versign "is the clear leader in Internet trust services," said Netscape executive vice president Mike Homer.

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