Why you might soon buy .Org for Non Profit domains at higher prices

The .Org domain pricing has always been capped, therefore they were alot cheaper than other domains like .com, .net and other top level domains.

This could however soon change as the company incharge of managing .Org domains Public Interest Registry (PIR) which was formed by Internet Society (ISOC) has announced that it will be acquired by the private equity firm Ethos Capital and as a result of the acquisition, the price of .org domains could soon increase substantially.

In the press release announcing the acquisition, CEO of the Public Interest Registry, Jon Nevett tried much to assuage the non-profits that this change of hands in ownership will not affect the .org community, saying:

“Since the inception of Public Interest Registry, our mission has been to enable the .ORG Community to use the Internet more effectively and change the world for the better. That will not change. We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Internet Society, and are thrilled that we will be able to continue – and expand – our important work with Ethos Capital while sustaining our commitment to the .ORG Community going forward.”

This price rise pandemonium has however been in the works for some time now, because early in March this year as the Verge points out, ICANN, the organization in charge of domain names, eliminated price restrictions for .org domains on June 30. the internet domains manager ICANN gave an indication that it will agree to removing price caps on rates for .org domain names to much shock and disbelief among many non-profit organizations who may not just afford to pay a higher price for their domains.

The proce cap removal was initially proposed in March, with most feedback opposing the move so a paltry six of the 3,000 public comments on the proposal were in favor of the decision according to Review Signal.

PIR published an open letter at the close of the public comments indicating it had “no specific plans for any price increases for .org”. However, now that PIR is part of a for-profit company, this could certainly change and non-profits and other institutions which have relied on inexpensive .org domains for years could have to pay a great deal more than they currently do.

Internet freedom groups denounced the acquisition and the ICANN decision to remove the price cap. Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and founding board member and former chair of the PIR, said he was “very disappointed” by the news.

“We built the .org domain with the specific goal of promoting the noncommercial use of the Internet,” Rotenberg told Gizmodo. “There are many models, including ICANN itself, that could allow for effective management of the domain by a non-profit corporation. There are critical elements of transparency and accountability that will be lost when the Public Interest Registry is acquired by a private equity firm.”

Elliot Harmon, Activism Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told Gizmodo the organization has been critical of ICANN’s decision to update its agreement with the PIR and remove price caps for .org domains.

“The .org ecosystem is essential to the nonprofit community, and decisions affecting how .org domains are managed must be made with appropriate input from the entire nonprofit community,” Harmon told Gizmodo.

“None of us knew at the time that the Internet Society would soon sell
PIR to a private equity firm,” Harmon added. “That only magnifies our concerns about the new registry agreement.”

Richard Kirkendall, CEO Namecheap wrote in the company blog opposing the price removal process saying

At Namecheap, we cannot understand why ICANN ignored the overwhelming voice of the Internet community and would decide to allow unrestricted price increases in legacy TLDs. We decided to stand up to ICANN on behalf of our customers, and the Internet community as a whole, on this very important issue by filing a Request for Reconsideration. This is a process through ICANN’s bylaws that requires ICANN’s board of directors to formally reconsider this wrong decision by ICANN staff. ICANN has 90 days to initially respond to Namecheap’s request, and we’ll update you when there is more information.

Our concern was (and still is) that removing this price cap for these legacy (pre-2012) TLDs could lead to large and unpredictable price increases that would harm Internet users and stifle innovation. You can read more about this in our earlier blog post: Help Keep Domain Prices in Check.

You can read more about Namecheap’s Request for Reconsideration, including additional analysis and more stories from commenters, on ICANN’s website at Request 19-2: Namecheap, Inc.

Internet Commerce Association (ICA) too has urged the ICANN board to withhold approval of what it called a purported .Org registry Sale, they write

The original justification for awarding the .Org registry contract to ISOC was its public interest focus and commitments. If ISOC is no longer associated with the .Org registry, that justification for awarding the Registry Agreement no longer exists.  Therefore, it would be reasonable for you to withhold your approval of the assignment to a private equity company.

ICANN has the contractual right to reasonably withhold approval of the purported sale pursuant to Section 7.5 of the .Org Registry Agreement and to terminate the Registry Agreement pursuant to Section 7.5(f) in the event of a consummated transaction.

The ICA urges the ICANN Board of Directors to properly fulfill its obligations to protect nonprofit registrants from the harm that will likely come from a private equity firm owning the cherished .Org registry, home of nonprofits. Read the full letter here.

Ethos Capital is a new private equity firm lead by Erik Brooks, it appears has just been founded. It acquired the domain name EthosCapital.com at the end of October through Afternic. Brooks was also at Abry Partners until earlier this year. Abry Partners acquired Donuts and installed former ICANN President of Global Domains Akram Atallah in the top spot there.

Donuts co-founder Jon Nevett left to be CEO of Public Interest Registry.

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