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Verisign owns all these certificate issuing companies: Verisign Thawte Geotrust and Rapidssl.

What is the difference between them and why is the price difference so great?

Update: Here are just a couple of differences I've come across:
GeoTrust is not chained: devices that don't properly validate the entire chain may have better luck with this one. I've seen ActiveSync work better with unchained certs than chained certs.

RapidSSL and Geotrust certs are not licensed per server, so that means you can purchase one cert for an entire webfarm.

Verisign certificates come with a free daily malware scan that alerts you if any such software is found on your site.

Only Verisign code signing certificates work with WinQual

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3 Answers 3

All SSL certificate do two things, authenticate that the holder of the certificate is who they claim to be, and encrypt the communications between client and server.

When you pay more the levels of authentication (i.e. the checks that the certificate authority makes when you go to them to purchase a cert for your website) increase as do the levels of warranty if the CA screws up.

The level of encryption will be no different with a $10 cert (or even a free self-signed one) and a $2000 cert.

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I'm aware of some technical differences between them, I just want to see if anyone else is aware, so we can compare notes. –  makerofthings7 Sep 16 '10 at 19:27
    
I just see it as marketing differences tbh, little more until you start getting into the nitty gritty of the verification processes and licensing (some wildcard cert vendors expect you to pay per server its installed on, some don't). –  Hutch Sep 16 '10 at 19:35

MakerofThings is right, those are the primary differences (I work for VeriSign's EV SSL department). In addition to malware scanning, the VeriSign SSL package is also associated with other trust products, such as the VeriSign checkmark and what's called seal-in-search (where the VeriSign checkmark appears next to your products in shopping search engines like The Find). Verisign, Thawte, Geotrust and Rapidssl all have their specific value and market, but with VeriSign it's more of a "suite" of trust that you're acquiring. Feel free to field any other questions to josephadeo@gmail.com.

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These days there are more issuing authorities with differing prices and services. Mainly it comes down to reputation and warranty level. Another thing that people overlook is the customer support factor. I've used other certificate authorities that have proven to be very helpful with my installs so it's no longer just Verisign, Thawte, Geotrust, and Rapidssl anymore.

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Are you here just to spam ssl.com? That just won't fly. –  jscott Jan 31 '13 at 20:10
    
No, I've only answered 2 questions on this forum and I'm just sharing my experience –  Yogi Jan 31 '13 at 20:28
    
You are a brand new user. Both your answers mention the same vendor and provide no additional value. It may behoove you to read the FAQ, in particular the promotion section. Tread lightly :) –  jscott Jan 31 '13 at 20:34
    
Point taken, I will try to be more observant of how I phrase my answers. –  Yogi Jan 31 '13 at 21:07

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