Opposition Mounts to Pending .ORG Sale
The pending sale of the .ORG domain registry to a private equity firm called Ethos Capital, first announced last November, has been met by a growing chorus of critics. ASAE and other nonprofit organizations quickly registered concern after the deal was announced that Ethos’ motives in acquiring the rights to run .ORG for more than $1 billion appeared profit driven.
Since 2003, .ORG has been run by a nonprofit corporation called Public Interest Registry (PIR). The registry’s contract to manage .ORG was renewed last year by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which also removed a longstanding price cap of 10% for renewal of .ORG domain names. Should the sale to Ethos Capital go through, the private equity firm could hike fees on the nearly 10.5 million registered .ORG names held by associations and other nonprofit groups.
In a letter sent last month to the Departments of Justice and Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission, ASAE asked the federal government to intercede and stop the pending sale. In response to public outcry from the .ORG community, ICANN delayed the sale in order to gather information about the proposed transaction. ICANN, which oversee internet domain names, must give its approval before the deal is finalized, and has been besieged by thousands of online petitions and letters of concerns from inside and outside the .ORG community.
A group of respected internet pioneers including Esther Dyson, who served as the first chair of ICANN from 1998 to 2000, has also stepped forward to persuade ICANN to hand management of .ORG to a new nonprofit cooperative called the Cooperative Corporation of .ORG Registrants. “This is a better alternative,” Dyson told the New YorkTimes. “If you’re owned by private equity, your incentive is to make a profit. Our incentive is to serve and protect nonprofits and the public.” Katherine Maher, a director of the cooperative who is the chief executive of the Wikimedia Foundation, added, “There are some things that operate better noncommercially, and that’s O.K.”