Prominent Internet Leaders To Tackle .ORG’s Sale By Forming An Entity

Many internet and non-profit leaders have grouped together and filed incorporation papers to form a new entity. This is to stop the sale of Public Interest Registry (PIR), a corporation that maintains the ‘.ORG’ domain to Ethos Capital, a private equity firm in November 2019. Called Cooperative Corporation of ‘.ORG’ Registrants, it will demand the ICANN, responsible for internet domain names, step into handover the management of the ‘.ORG’ domain to the group.

Members of the new entity

This new entity is said to have 7 directors. These include Katherine Maher, CEO of Wikimedia Foundation which is a non-profit group operating Wikipedia, Esther Dyson, former founding chairman of ICANN, William Woodcock, William Woodcock, Executive director of Packet Clearing House and Former founding president of ICANN, Michael Roberts.

Members’ comments

According to Maher, they want to ensure that ‘.ORG’ doesn’t become a tool for censorship. She also told Reuters that they aren’t making a competing bid but would want to manage the domain for security and their aim is to protect non-profits and the public. EFF’s executive director Cindy Cohen does not want to convert ‘.ORG’ into a commercial venture

ICANN could veto in order to stop the sale of ‘.ORG’ to Ethos Capital if they had any apprehensions regarding security, reliability and can either approve the sale, reject it, or question them by the month-end. The new entity has reportedly briefed the US Congress members to urge ISOC to reconsider the sale.

In an emailed response, James Wood, the ISOC’s chief communications officer, mentioned that no one doubts the financial backing or experience of this non-profit outfit in running the ‘.ORG’ domain. According to Wood, they are open to the point of views of various parties on the sale of PIR to Ethos Capital. However, ‘.ORG’ users are wondering how this entity, organized by some ex-ICANN executives, can represent a more stable operator of ‘.ORG’ than either Ethos or PIR. There is no evidence to show how it could run ‘.ORG’ better than PIR. They find this in sharp contrast to what was laid out in their transaction with Ethos.

Sale of ‘.ORG’ raises several questions

The sale of ‘.ORG’ domain to a company which is for-profit had raised concerns among various domain registrars and customers which may cause domain renewal prices to potentially increase over time.

  • In November 2019, Tim Berners-Lee, who is the founder of the World Wide Web, expressed his concern about the sale of .ORG to a private company.
  • Besides, Mozilla Foundation’s executive director, Mark Surman, was another top executive who has raised questions about the sale because he believes the stakes are high.
  • James Wood of the Internet Society (ISOC) mentioned that the ‘.ORG’ domain will be accessible and reasonably even though it has been sold to a private entity. He had stated that ISOC felt that Ethos Capital was the ideal partner and owner which can help lead PIR (Public Interest Registry, that manages .ORG) into a new chapter.

Ethos Capital’s Response

Ethos Capital’s founder and CEO, Erik Brooks, has stated that the domain registration prices for ‘.ORG’ will be limited to not more than 10% per year, on average. He also said that the PIR Stewardship Council is stated to seek input from the ‘.ORG’ community. Besides, members would be selected from those knowledgeable in the fields of mission-driven, non-profit, charitable organization management from across various entities like entrepreneurship, community development, social advocacy, economic empowerment, human rights, and general philanthropy.

Of course, it was said that freedom of expression will be a norm and PIR will continue taking action against issues regarding security and speech in accordance with its existing anti-abuse policy. Brooks had said that Ethos will invest in PIR over the long term without specifying how long it will remain invested in the non-profit.