.org Registry Every new detail is worse than the last
Ethos Capital, a new commercial investment firm founded in the past few months in Boston, has 2 staff and only one investment: a deal to acquire the 501c3 non-profit that currently runs the
.org domain (valued at a few $B), for an undisclosed sum. This was initiated immediately after ICANN decided in May, over universal opposition, to remove the price cap on
.org registrations with no meaningful protections for existing or future registrants.
This seems to violate a range of ethical, ICANN, ISOC, and non-profit guidelines. It is certainly the privatisation of a not-for-profit monopoly into a for-profit one, which will benefit a few by inconveniencing millions of others. I have questions:
- Do affected parties have recourse?
- Other than polite letters, is anything being done?
- Why does Vint in particular think this is a good idea… ?
- Has anyone currently at ICANN + ISOC made substantive comment?
For more backstory, read on…
The .org heist
(registrars must give domain-holders 6 months notice of a price increase for renewals, and have the option but no obligation to offer renewals for up to 10 years at current rates. So if the registry chose to quintuple its rates, each registrar would have the option to offer its customers at most 10 years of registration at the old, unquintupled rate).
In early 2019, PIR asked ICANN to drop the price cap on
.org registrations and renewals. PIR touted their non-profit status as a reason to approve.
In March 2019, ICANN pushed this idea forward, inviting comments on the proposal. They received more comments (3,300) than they had on almost any other decision, uniformly opposed to the change (with 6 exceptions, 0.2% of the total.) The oppositions came from registrars and NGOs across the globe.
In summarizing the comments later to the Register, ICANN lied boldly if not creatively, saying: “there was a group that opposed lifting price caps, but it is not true that ‘the community’ was ‘strongly opposed’ to lifting them.”
A letter-writing campaign was started at #savedotorg.
ICANN has the right to withhold approval of the proposed sale, under Section 7.5 of the .Org Registry Agreement; they have 30 days after they receive the last requested information about such a sale to consent or explicitly withhold consent.