Dot org domain sold

Hashtag SaveDotOrg

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.

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