ICANN, the Internet Company for Delegated Names and Numbers, voted on Friday to block the sale to a private equity investment firm of the entity that manages the top-level domain of .org. California attorney general’s office may have affected the decision to withhold approval for the sale.
The .org domain registry is currently run by the Public Interest Registry, a non-profit affiliate of another not-for-profit organization called the Internet Society. PIR was created to run the.org domain in 2002, and has done so ever since.
But the Internet Society shocked the non-profit community last fall by revealing that it would sell the PIR and, indeed, control of the.org domain for more than $1 billion to a new and mysterious private equity company called Ethos Capital.
“ICANN‘s role is to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems. We are dedicated to making the right decision, knowing that whatever we decide will be well received by some, and not by others. It is our responsibility to weigh all factors from anICANNBylaws and policies perspective, including considering the global public interest. We have done this diligently, ensuring as much transparency as possible and welcoming input from stakeholders throughout.”Mention in a blog post.
It is significant because many stakeholders had feared that registrations and renewals for the .org website name would become even more expensive. It may have pressured non-profits to invest more or risk losing their identity and identities on the Internet, rendering them vulnerable to corporate censorship.
Like several other organizations, including Wikimedia, Consumer Reports, OpenMedia, Access Now and Greenpeace, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has urged ICANN to prevent the offer. One petition received more than 26,000 responses and the California Attorney General has raised similar concerns.
.org is one of seven initial TLDs and was meant to be used by non-commercial organizations such as non-profit organizations. The limitation has been somewhat loosely applied, with .org domains generally open to anyone who wants one for purchase.
The .org TLD has been managed by the Public Internet Registry since 2013, a non-profit entity founded primarily by an Internet standards advocacy group called the Internet Society (ISOC) for this purpose. Since then PIR has been the main source of funding for the ISOC.
ISOC revealed its intention to sell $1.133 billion of PIR to Ethos Capital by late 2019. The money should have been used to create an endowment fund which ISOC said would be a more secure long-term source of income to support its global Internet standards and technology advocacy mission.
Before February 2019, ICANN imposed a price cap of $8.25 (approximately Rs. 625) on the.org domain names with a renewal price increase limit of 10 per cent.
According to sources, ICANN had requested public input on a plan to scrap this limit, and more than 98% of the responses was negative, but it did go ahead.
At the time, PIR had said it was not considering any price increases, but Ethos Capital does not have the same goals, despite pretending to have.
Many former members of ICANN now work as Ethos Capital executives and one of its subsidiaries, a domain name registrar named Donuts.
Ethos Capital has declined to reveal specifics of how it will handle PIR’s debt and earnings, according to the EFF, and has called its management structure “Byzantine” and “suspicious.”
The EFF called the decision of ICANN “a remarkable success” for non-profit Internet users, but cautioned that ICANN still needs to find a new home for the.org TLD as ISOC and PIR have shown a lack of dedication to it.
In addition, ICANN regulates top-level domains (TLDs), similar to.com,.org,.internet, and many others, and appoints third-party entities to administer them and ensure their own concentration and freedom.