PALM BEACH, FL – On November 13, 2019, news began circling that Public Interest Registry (PIR), the Reston, Virginia-based not-for-profit created to manage the “.org” top-level domain name had been acquired by a private equity management firm called Ethos Capital.
Since then, the ICA, Internet Commerce Association, a non-profit organization representing domain owners, delivered a letter to ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, calling on the authoritative body to withhold approval of the sale and terminate PIR’s contract to run the .org registry.
The sale sparked serious concern and in some instances outrage among industry watchdogs and news publishers beginning with Domain Name Wire in an article the publisher titled “The interesting connection between the .Org deal and ICANN” and two days later covering the “damning letter“ on ICANN’s “terrible blunder” as stated by the ICA.
Surely you can now appreciate the terrible blunder that you have made. Crucial policy decisions that have billion-dollar ramifications and which affect the stability of the Internet must be the subject of robust Board involvement and not left to ICANN staff.”
If you were led to believe that removing price caps on .Org domain names was a sound approach because the registry would remain in the hands of a nonprofit foundation, you have clearly been misled. If you were led to believe that despite being the effective owner of the .org registry, you were somehow forced to let your service providers tell you how much they can charge, instead of the other way around, you have been led astray. If you have been told that .Org does not have market power within the nonprofit sector, you have been led astray. If you have been told that competition from other gTLDs will constrain .org prices, you have been led astray”Zak Muscovitch, General Counsel, ICA
DomainIncite.com, a widely read and referenced domain related news site, went through the letter attempting to answer the questions posed by ICA’s Muscovitch to ICANN. In particular were notes that the push to move legacy registries to the new gTLD agreement happened under the watch of former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé so it is he who “bears ultimate responsibility” while profiting from it himself through his connections to Ethos Capital.
An article on Medium.com criticizing the “diversion of funds from progressive causes to Ethos Capital’s bank account” encouraging readers to push ICANN to veto the sale while Vice.com pushed a story claiming that Ethos Capital’s purchase would “ruin the .Org domain system and screw nonprofits” not to mention hurt the internet.
News of the sale is beginning to travel fast, and more articles are beginning to circulate as the virtual dots are put together.
- “Nonprofits Fear Cost of .org Domain Names Will Rise Sharply” by Wall Street Journal
- “Private Equity Ghouls Buy Non-Profit That Handles .Org Domains” Gizmodo.com
- “Org that doles out .org websites just sold itself to a for-profit company” TheVerge.com
Industry speculation ran rampant earlier this year when ICANN ignored thousands of comments and did not exercise its oversight responsibility as urged by the Internet community and non-profit organizations who strongly opposed the removal of price caps in the .org Registry Agreement; organizations such as NPR, YMCA, C-SPAN, National Geographic Society, AARP, The Conservation Fund, Oceana, and countless others.
About The Author: John Colascione is Chief Executive Officer of Internet Marketing Services Inc. He specializes in Website Monetization, is a Google AdWords Certified Professional, authored a ‘how to’ book called ”Mastering Your Website‘, and is a key player in several Internet related businesses through his search engine strategy brand Searchen Networks®