Monday, November 25, 2019

.org Top-Level Domain Sold

Kieren McCarthy (via Quincy Larson):

At the end of last week, the Internet Society (ISOC) announced that it has sold the rights to the .org registry for an undisclosed sum to a private equity company called Ethos Capital. The deal is set to complete in the first quarter of next year.

The decision shocked the internet industry, not least because the .org registry has always been operated on a non-profit basis and has actively marketed itself as such. The suffix “org” on an internet address – and there are over 10 million of them – has become synonymous with non-profit organizations.


No one, including, we understand, the board of ICANN, expected the Internet Society to sell the registry. But it is also worth noting that the contract negotiation failed to add, or even ask for, protections or commitments to .org’s long-standing non-profit status despite the significant contractual changes and an extension of the contract by 10 years, far longer than previous extensions.

Save .ORG (via Hacker News):

Decisions affecting .ORG must be made with the consultation of the NGO community, overseen by a trusted community leader. If the Internet Society (ISOC) can no longer be that leader, it should work with the NGO community and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to find an appropriate replacement.

The 2019 .ORG Registry Agreement represents a significant departure from .ORG’s 34-year history. It gives the registry the power to make several policy decisions that would be detrimental to the .ORG community[…]


Update (2020-01-02): Nick Heer:

Translation: “If we had told people about this before the sale, it would have meant answering awkward questions that I very much wish to avoid — then and now.”

Andrew Sullivan (via Hacker News):

In our continued interest to be transparent about the details of the agreement regarding Ethos Capital’s acquisition of Public Interest Registry from the Internet Society, earlier today we disclosed the purchase price of the transaction: $1.135 billion.


Our mission is to support and promote the development of the Internet around the world — an Internet that is open, globally connected, secure, and trustworthy. Our agreement with Ethos Capital will allow us to accelerate our initiatives based on more sustainable, dependable funding, to enable us to commit to longer-term investments and to do much more to ensure that the Internet is there for everyone.

Update (2020-02-04): Nick Heer:

The Attorney General’s letter is thorough, and ICANN indicates that it intends to respond at the end of next week. ICANN has also said that it wants approval for the sale to be delayed from February 17 to April 20.

Update (2020-04-17): Kieren McCarthy (via Hacker News):

ICANN has again delayed a decision on the sale of the .org registry, pushing the issue off for another month multiple sources with knowledge of Thursday’s meeting, have told The Register.

The organization’s board of directors was due to decide today on whether to approve the $1.13bn sale of the .org domain from the Internet Society to private equity firm Ethos Capital, but a last-minute letter from California’s attorney general Xavier Becerra appears to have upended the plan.

Update (2020-05-06): Kieren McCarthy:

ICANN has vetoed the proposed $1.1bn sale of the .org registry to an unknown private equity firm, saying this was “the right thing to do.”

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

There does seem to be a limit on how far this can go, since the DNS system is entirely distributed. I could, for example, start my own registry of .org domain names, and run a DNS server that responded for them, and you could point your DNS server at mine and bypass the existing registry altogether. Yes. this would absolutely cause complete chaos, but nonetheless would be technically possible to do, and some big DNS provider like Google DNS ( or Cloudflare DNS ( could certainly at the least threaten this if things get overly out of hand.

Not that this should ever have been allowed to happen - the whole DNS registrar thing should never have been allowed to happen, it always should have just been a NFP organisation to maintain them - its just a database after all, its not exactly rocket science.

Meanwhile, I have only one .org domain myself (for a NFP organisation I volunteer with) and have extended my registration for the next 9 years to at least mitigate the issue (notably, .org is much cheaper than

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