The organization that oversees Internet domain names has rejected a proposal to transfer management of the .org top-level domain from a non-profit organization to a private equity group. ICANN said it would not approve the sale of the operator public interest registry .org as it would create “unacceptable uncertainty” for the domain, citing concerns about the debt and the intentions of the company for profit Ethos Capital.
In a blog post, The ICANN Board said that the sale would have abandoned PIR’s current focus in favor of an “entity that is required to serve the interests of its stakeholders and that has no meaningful plan to protect or serve the .org community. ” He also noted that the sale would leave PIR with $ 360 million in debt that could destabilize its operations in the future.
PIR was founded by the Internet Society (or ISOC) to manage the .org domain in 2003. But at the end of 2019, ISOC announced that it would transfer control of .org to Ethos in exchange for a grant of 1 billion of dollars. The move immediately drew criticism from advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as some original members of ICANN, including its first president Esther Dyson. Opponents challenged the prospect of an equity company managing non-profit areas, despite promises not to implement price increases or censorship.
The controversy .org has put a generally low-key organization in the spotlight, especially since the ICANN decision has been postponed several times because it asked for more information about the agreement. Earlier this month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra urged ICANN reject the sale, warning that it “could endanger the operational stability of the .org registry”. The board echoed Becerra’s complaints in its decision.
The EFF welcomed ICANN’s decision, calling it “a major victory for the millions of nonprofits, civil society organizations and individuals who make .org their home online.”