Recent news reports in the last week that the top level domain recognised and used by charities and non profits has been sold to a private equity company. The Internet Society (through Public Interest Registry) have operated the domain since 2003, before that the domain was operated by Versign. They announced the sale on their website:
The Internet Society and Public Interest Registry (PIR) today announced that they have reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, under which Ethos Capital will acquire PIR and all of its assets from the Internet Society. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of next year
This has raised a number of concerns, particularly about the non comercial nature of the domain, although that was not really enforced. Early this year the price cap was removed for .org domain by Icann and there are now fears that the prices will now increase dramitaclly for this piece of internet real estate. At the time the contract was renewed they said that there was no plans for any change. This piece on Domain Name Wire was very prophetic:
The good news is that Public Interest Registry’s management is competent and well-guided. They will likely wait a while before making any major changes to avoid comments of “we told you so”.
But management changes. Boards change. And one day, it could get ugly.
Generally speaking, this is one domain for sale amongst the seemingly hundreds that exist today. Given the much wider choice, it may not seem sensible to allow this domain to be artificially capped when the newer ones are not. A .org costs the same as the currently capped .com and .net usually. Sometimes one of the new ones might be cheaper, though often not. I did a quick search for a .charity domain and found it for sale for £39 compared to £12 for the .org version. Theres also something to be said for the status of the .org domain that people generally associate it as a trustworthy organisation that is generally doing good or non profit work (even as stated above, that’s not nescearrly the case as there is no restriction anymore.
This has sparked a lot of controversy in the internet community and a petition has been started to try and have the decision reversed. Whilst costs might not be significant to larger organisations, I know with my own work with smaller charities in the past that stretching funds as far as possible forms a key part in making sure they continue to be able to do the good work they do. This may mean such organisations moving to what my be less trusted domains in order to save costs. Alternatively given the .org domain is well known, that people will have remembered the website and email infrastructure has been set up, keeping it and having to absorb the increases in cost at the expense of other work they do. It may not appear much in the short term, however I can tell you from experience that these costs do have a way of adding up.
I hope a sensible outcome is reached.
Very late update, January 2023:
As the story about ICANN selling .org had been going viral on the fediverse, I felt it’s important to add an update here. ICANN posted an update (in April 2022!, whilst this blog was on hiatus), that ICANN had withheld consent to the sale.
Good news and a happy ending.