UPDATE: On April 30, 2020, ICANN’s Board rejected the sale of the .org domains to the private equity group. Citing a number of concerns including those voiced by private citizens and the California Attorney General’s Office, the organization decided the sale was not in the best interest of the public. Read more about their decision here.
It happened rather quietly just before Thanksgiving. The Public Interest Registry – or PIR – announced a plan to sell the entirety of the top level .org domain to a private equity group, Ethos Capital. The terms of the sale, including price, weren’t released and the sale won’t be finalized until January. Assuming the same does go through, what does it mean for the .org domains which are used almost entirely by non-profits like charities and not-for-profits like credit unions? Potentially some expensive changes.
According to CNN.com, this isn’t the first time that a for-profit company has owned the .org top level domain. Verisign owned it from 1995 to 2003. The difference according to experts is that Ethos has only been in business since May of this year and PIR is one of their first investments. The Internet Society — a non-profit itself that created the PIR in 2002 — says the private firm could increase the price of domains by 10%, a big concern for companies who own hundreds or thousands of domains. Another concern is potential censorship on the .org domains. As of December 4th, over 12,500 people have signed a petition opposing the same. Organizations including the Girl Scouts of America and the YMCA have signed as well. Many experts believe the sale will go through despite the opposition.
There has historically been a cap on the amount a .org domain can be sold for. The theory being that since the buyer isn’t making a profit, the sellers should have limits on their profits as well. When – or if – the Ethos purchase goes through, that cap could be eliminated. That means credit unions, community groups and other users of the .org domains would be wise to extend the purchase on their domains for as long as possible. If you can get a ten-year agreement in place, now may be a very wise time to do so.
.org domains on the internet currently
Amount of people who have signed the petition opposing sale
The average price of a .org domain
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