"Save .org": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21611677
"Why I Voted to Sell .ORG": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21656960
"ICANN races towards regulatory capture: the great .org heist": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21626677
"ICA asks ICANN to block .Org private equity deal in damning letter": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21557779
"Internet world despairs as non-profit .org sold to private equity firm": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21592297
"Private Equity Is Going to Ruin the .Org Domain System and Screw Nonprofits": https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21582622
Did I miss any?
But the linked article has pre-filled form letters you can use to send complaints to the IRS, and a copy of a letter I sent to the AG in CA and VA, which may provide some inspiration for anyone who wants to write a similar letter.
Ethos/PIR Funded and Led a Scorched Earth Campaign Against Communities at ICANN https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21659409
The .ORG Sale Is a Radical Departure That Puts the Internet at Risk https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21659278
Vint 'father of the 'net' Cerf dodges dot-org sell-off during public Q&A https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21659240
This submission by almostbasic offers an excellent overview:
.ORGanized Takeover – a timeline of the ISOC, PIR & Ethos Capital Deal https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21630179
ICANN receives 3,300 comments uniformly opposed to the change and 6 in favor of removing price caps, and sides with the 0.2% minority.
PIR responded to the comments with an open letter that said, “We are a mission-based non-profit, and would never betray the trust that you have put into .ORG and us.”
On 7 May, Chehadé registered the domain for EthosCapital.com.
On 13 May, ICANN decided to lift the price caps anyway.
On 14 May, Ethos Capital was incorporated as a new investment firm founded by Brooks. Ethos Capital has two staff: Brooks and Nora Abusitta-Ouri, a former ICANN SVP who later worked for Chehadé and was also a classmate of Chehadé."
Like Hans Reiser.
I am sure that is true for others.
When a private equity investment firm buys something, they plan to extract value, they don't create value.
Ethos Capital was formed in 2019 . Price caps were lifted before it was sold . Combined with the billion plus valuation, something is sketchy. Even if you trust this sale, they could even resell it to a less trustworthy owner after increasing rates making a return on investment, that is probably the plan.
.orgs will be filled with extortion to good .orgs, and fake .orgs will be created which will create distrust about existing .orgs, and allow propaganda to spread.
There will be tons of malware and phishing going on when people think they are on trustable domains.
If they could buy .gov they would. Just more of the turn of the internet to authoritarian/corporate control over the internet's anti-authoritarian/public/independent roots.
If you've been putting any trust into a website because it's a .org, that was your mistake... It's been unrestricted for a very long time.
Ethos changes nothing in that regard.
Most people don't even know that there was an illusion that's supposed to be shattered
We are moving to a new, worse time. Have been for a while.
I do not want to reward that investment at all.
This is 100% true. And yet, for the average person, it's viewed as the default mysterious string that ends a website's "name". Anything else is viewed as slightly questionable, although most people are aware of .org and .net as sometimes legitimate exceptions. I think most people would be less likely to enter their credit card information on a ".biz" domain, even though they couldn't express any accurate reason why that made it less trustworthy. That's significant, even if it makes no technological difference.
The last two actually imply what they are about, but the .org could be anything.
Trust and faith in the service associated with a domain needs to be built with standard channels like word of mouth, advertising, good business practices, etc.
I do care about that happening with .org
The .org matters. I would say these new owners don't get that, but I think they do, and think they have position to just rent seek, essentially trading on something that matters to just about the point where it doesn't so much.
Not going there. End game is .org no longer matters.
Fine. Might as well not contribute to the whole mess.
The problem is '.org' is in the private equity game now and when you go down that path, value is extracted and entities end up stripped of assets, loaded with debt and eventually stagnate. Private equity investment does not invest for community goodwill, it is a value extraction mission. Even if it is for investment, as much value or growth that can be extracted before it is available for investment is the modus operandi see Softbank with WeWork, Uber etc. You can see Ethos Capital goals and history where again creating returns and value extraction is the only goal.  Since it is a new entity there is very little ability to predict what this firm does or will do with their investment targets.
If this is the new game in TLDs then there could be some price collusion incoming, meaning more expensive for small/medium/institutions that are trying to compete or do public good.
That will prove irresistible.
Flat out, someone got pitched about an easy money machine, with strong second sale potential.
And it is, and will be too.
It is because .org was not supposed to be about these kinds of things.
Well, now it is. With no value added. Just rent seeking.
Maybe in the future much stronger legal means can prevent this kind of thing from happening.
I get it. The money is good.
It just will not come from me. Have seen this movie enough times to know how it ends now.
It is sad, and it sucks.
Why? It isn't in their own interest to ruin .org.
From an investor's perspective "ruining .org" means the asset won't produce return on investment. From your or my perspective it may be something entirely different.
Then the scammers dominate.
The domain business of .org is run by Afilias, they pay about $2 per year for a domain. That is a extremely low price and it would be very difficult to manage to get a lower price anywhere. In fact Afilias might not be motivated to continue with such a generous price if they are a for profit registry now.
In reality value is created by private equity buyouts through an aggressive use of debt, which provides financing and tax advantages and freedom from restrictive regulations.
What the hell?
Ctrl-f for "redact"
What group or individual is going to slog through the work of getting this investigated?
What group or individual is going to slog through a lawsuit?
Would the EFF take it up, or is it outside their purview?
Is there any hope of reversal/fines/prosecution? Will it hinge on intent? Does that intent exist, or was ISOC just foolish? If there was intent, can that intent be shown beyond a reasonable doubt? Or is there some rigid, incontrovertible rule that has been broken, such that intent doesn't matter?
All in all, it seems like such a stupid financial decision by ISOC (and one which goes against their mission) that one can't help but presume some sort of foul play. But who knows, perhaps they just messed up.
What it comes down to is: who is both sufficiently dissatisfied with the way DNS is managed and has the clout to get a large group of organizations to move to an alternative? Or perhaps: what is the killer app that is incompatible with how ISOC runs things that would get people to switch?
IPv6 should give you some idea how easy your "nothing" is to change.
Probably nothing to prosecute.
"This funding is sufficient to provide the Internet Society with broadly equivalent annual earnings we currently receive from PIR. And through responsible, well managed investment, we believe this fund will provide a comparable level of funding to the Internet Society in perpetuity."
So unless they were worried that .org was not as stable as an endowment, it seems like it didn't help them at all anyway. And this is at the cost of their core mission?
Can anyone link me to what the Internet Society has actually, tangibly done in this mission? Because to me they look awfully like that sort of charity that if you look closer all it does is “raise awareness” from the comfort of plush offices
> Once the transaction is completed, PIR will continue to meet the highest standards of public transparency, accountability, and social performance in line with its longstanding purpose-driven mission, and will consider seeking B Corporation certification.
I guess they intend to abandon their non-profit status soon?
This is not the same as the organization can never end the year with more money in the bank than it started. This is not counted as profit, it's simply money that must eventually be spent for charitable purposes in later years.
Large amounts of money can enter the organization, but it can never end exit. (Though, there are some loopholes, like admistator salaries)
1. It is trade or business - sure, it's trade as in sale, so that matches.
2. It is regularly carried on - not really, there's only one .org domain so one can't regularly sell it.
3. It is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization - that one would be the toughest to prove, the purpose of the organization is "to promote the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of all people throughout the world". Of course you can think that selling .org to a particular company may not benefit the world, but surely it's just your opinion, you can't prove that it has no relation to the original mission.
Also, using taxation as a tool in policy disagreements is a really bad idea. It is tempting to say "ah, so do this bad thing so we retaliate against you by attacking your tax status" but that's not what tax status is for. If it's a non-profit, it remains a non-profit even after it does bad thing, and whether it is a non-profit or not should not depend on whether we like what they're doing. Tax status is not a form of punishment or reward, at least it shouldn't be.
You're right. I misread #2 as the inverse so misunderstood what UBI was.
> 3. It is not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization - that one would be the toughest to prove...
Kinda a moot point given #2, but the IRS elaborates (emphasis mine), "... only when the conduct of the business activities has causal relationship to achieving exempt purposes (_other than through the production of income_)"
> This transaction will put that bigger mission on a solid footing — so that the Internet Society can provide much more substantive help to nonprofits than merely leasing domain names, and with more continuity over time.
I’m really disappointed in this perspective - the mission is now growing outside of its current operations (ie conquesting) AND will now have a slug of cash which they’ve never properly managed before.
The Internet needs them to be conservative stewards but they want to grow outside of that.
Further more the article goes through “protections” that are in place for Ethos to keep prices reasonable. The issue is these protections aren’t all contractually obligated and even those written are weak.
Of course private equity is going to get a return on capital on $1B invested. Their incentive is to push the boundary as far as it can possibly go to find the profit maximizing point.
Would love to hear more arguments for and against.
Something smells. Perhaps a few audits, some regulation and a lot more oversight by people who are less "enthusiastically driven by negotiable pleasantries" would help?
Verisign, the operator of .com, arguably the most important TLD, operates the com registry subject to agreements with US Department of Commerce and ICANN. These contracts now let them keep raising prices gradually. It is doubtful that these increases reflect or are in any way proportional increases in administrative costs.
I understand why the sale price can vary. Stuff has a market price and some are now more valuable. Initial setup for new domain should be negligible however.
I also understand there are costs for keeping the lights on but I can't see that rental being much more than a dollar per month. It can't cost THAT much to serve a single name entry. Not when I can get a generic server for $20/month or so. And that is without much effort. With a minimal bit more effort I could probably get something a lot cheaper.
The whole pricing structure seems like a scam.
In addition to that, apparently $2 to Afilias (for-profit, actual registry operator) was a recent development; it was more like $4 before 2018.
And guess what, former PIR CEO (2011-2018) was Vice President of Discovery Services for Afilias (2018-2011). (This was pointed out to me by .) So the shenanigans have been going on long before the monumental .org sale we're discussing here.
Viewed as a perpetuity the income should have been valued way higher - around 4 billion.
This deal just stinks.
But, nobody drops numbers that large without very fully exploiting what they see as an opportunity.
The opportunity is to raise prices to max market will bear, then flip it.
Given the intent behind .org, this is artificial value, created out of both position and leverage.
I am beginning the work to be rid of my .org
That will cost me. Fine.
I abhor this kind of thing. A lot more money will move unnecessarily.
I do not want to be a part of that.
It's such a good rent extraction business that Berkshire Hathaway has accumulated 11% of VeriSign. Last year VeriSign's gross profit margin was 82% and their net income margin was a staggering 47% (a level you never see from major public companies, outside of rare cases like Visa or Facebook).
And give ICANN the biggest sign of how this should never happen again.
It's going against the grain now to do things on your own.
When you no longer needed ports 20, 25, 70, 110, 119 or 143.
.org hasn't been restricted to non-profits since forever ago (even when it was the restriction wasn't enforced). It was, until very recently, a TLD supposedly run by a non-profit as part of the Internet infrastructure so that people would expect reasonable pricing, unlike others.
> You would probably be just fine with .org
Similar to gp I built my identity around an .org (though not as long). I certainly won't be fine if Ethos decides to jack the price of my domain to hundreds of dollars per year.
Remember, not only could a new owner send e-mails posing as email@example.com; even worse, they would be able to collect ^all^ the e-mail going to that domain.
I don’t believe for a moment that the ACLU, or Planned Parenthood, or any org of that scale could transition in two or even ten years.
The oddity here is that no matter what they do it makes no real difference to the kind of organization that regularly hires lawyers. I see this as more of an existential threat that every name connected with ICANN could end up in a free market pricing similar to rent.
My personal domain is .org and has been for 20+ years. I chose .org because .com and .net were taken.
I don’t ever recall anything where anyone even mentioned non-profits in relation to my .org registration.
Peasants like us were never meant to have their own domain names.
There are more than ten thousand signatures on https://savedotorg.org/.
This whole concern sounds like a tempest in a teapot.
That could indicate that there's more background and context than has been published, since the outcry seems so contrary to the vote.
Either way there's missing public information and for an important resource like .org that's going to cause problems given a sudden change.
Read those minutes, and you’ll find that every “interesting” section is filled with redacted text. If anything, that should make any outside observer more skeptical.
On the situation of gaming the system by a State actor, obviously there has been a long standing push to get ICANN and the US GOV out of the internet infrastructure. Creating chaos, little, by little, lends credence to this push or another similar one. That vacuum would probably be filled in places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, etc by easier government censorship, including (they would hope) more control over their smaller neighbors' internet. The current situation is of course not perfect, but one can see why subversive action could be a chosen path by any one of several state actors.
Translation: "We sold the Internet to vultures (super-nice vultures! you won't believe how nice they are!) so that we could have... basically the same cash flow that we already had. But now we're going to deal with bankers instead of Afilias."
Prediction: they will achieve nothing, at all, whatsoever.
Everyone who voted for this should be ashamed of themselves.
This is very weasel worded way to say that price would double every 7.27 years... (and this is only "Our plan")
Monopolies should be regulated - domain name administration is a natural monopoly.
It's the same as a TV series - there are great many TV series , but only 1 Game of Thrones on HBO, and it's not substitutable. Therefore, HBO has a monopoly on Game of Thrones.
> and it's meaning cannot be replicated with another TLD.
anything-org.us, anything-org.xyz, anything-org.com, or even just disregard bothering with .org entirely since it literally has no meaning; there's no enforcement on the soft policy that it represent non-profits. For example, slashdot.org is owned by BizX.
Old-guard nerds have nostalgic attachment to the .org TLD's history; that's it. It's hardly a case that it's a monopoly.
How would you like it if your phone company started charging you extra to keep your phone number, and told you, there's plenty of other phone numbers you can have, we won't charge extra for those
It was annoying, but nobody claims seriously that email providers are a monopoly.
Patents, copyrights, and trademarks are sometimes used as examples of government-granted monopolies.
Third paragraph from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly
So, yes, HBO does have a monopoly on Game of Thrones, and my email provider does have a monopoly on my email address.
This is, for example, why they explicitly passed a phone number portability law, because phone companies were abusing their monopoly power over individual phone numbers, to keep people from switching to different providers.
I mean, it would certainly be right for the government to limit the increase in the cost of .org registrations to inflation, or better to cap the profit margin, since costs are likely to decrease, but just because it's right, doesn't mean it'll happen. .org domains are an artificial scarcity that wasn't even created by a corporation. At least the telephone was invented privately, so you could argue phone numbers are fair game, but with domain names even that argument doesn't hold. There's no reason a private company should be extracting economic-rent from it.
The value is, for starters: branding, people remember sites.
The value is also vendor-lock in. What you called "annoying" above. The value is not having to do that annoying thing, that is value, and it's what the registrar can now use to extract money from existing .org domains.
The value is also, that if you let your .org domain lapse, since you don't want to pay for it, now someone else can take it and pretend to be you.
That 3 to 4 times recent historic and near future projection for inflation rates.
It reminds me of the struggle to communicate to the general population the issue of Net Neutrality. That issue seemed to enjoy MUCH more coverage and yet (anecdotally), all my non-techie family and friends still didn't know what it was.
Recently I sent a "story idea" submission to NPR to ask them to cover this issue in a way that can help illuminate the dark corners of this story to the broader population. Unfortunately so many of the other major news outlets are so sensationalized that I wouldn't trust them to report on it accurately.
What other organizations have a broad reach that we should be contacting to encourage covering this? I don't know anyone outside tech checking in with eff.org on a regular basis, and many certainly don't have save.org on their radar. Any suggestions?
Reading the threads, I came across various prices. In case of .com, I saw ICANN fees of $0.18, Verisign fees of $7.85, and then there are registrar fees, eg. Godaddy $18.17.
Is Godaddy paying Verisign or only ICANN? The reason I'm confused is that the threads mention domain brokers hoard domains because they are so cheap ($0.18?). On the other hand, I understand Verisign is operating .com, so they would always get their fees as well?
Why do they need to make a profit in the first place?? Do everything needs to be profitable??
There are no restrictions on registrants for a .org domain. It was intended as a place for non-profit organizations, or other uses that didn't fit within .com or .net, and that was never enforced or enforceable, and the restrictive intent was removed.
There aren't any maximum price increases. .org can increase to $5000/name/year, or $50,000.
TLDs are virtually unrestricted now (not entirely but close to it), so you can have me.sexy and spaghetti-monster.church if you wanted to. I know there were price caps on .org, but frankly unless you're in heavy SEO/marketing game - which most nonprofits aren't - domain name costs aren't that major expense even for commercial companies. And dozens, now hundreds of TLDs are being managed by commercial entities without Internet descending into chaos and ruin. So why does the Internet world "despair" about this thing?
Wouldn't this be a sale of a non-profit's assets, rather than a sale of the non-profit itself? I see no legal reason a non-profit can't sell, e.g., a building it owns.
Everything else seems skeevy, but this particular angle does not seem promising for a basis of any legal proceedings.
It's possible that Ethos Capital is being imprecise are not technically acquiring PIR, but it certainly reads that way.
Edit, to add: or 3) you convert the non-profit to some other type of ()corp() and then pay appropriate taxes.... though I’m not as familiar with how this would work.
But the whole deal smells a bit of sulfur and hotwind, no?
Or did I miss something? How did the "Internet Society" get its "ownership" of the .org TLD registry? Did they buy it? If they bought it, then for how much? From my understanding, they just got given it, by the US Gov't., with a mandate to run it at cost, more or less.
So, as some suggest, there is a risk that the $1.1 billion could be considered a pure profit - which would seem to put their non-profit status at risk.
Also, by selling the very thing they were established to administer, that should maybe terminate their mandate, and one might also argue that the $1.1 billion represents funds that belong to existing .org registrants, and should be refunded to them all.
The "Internet Society" is not a for-profit corporation, right? So where do they get off by just wrapping up their administrator-role in a big package, and selling - without any bidding process even - to a couple of folks who promise to maybe raise the user-fees by 5 times the rate of inflation for the next few years?
How do "Board Members" of the "Internet Society" actually get to become "Board Members" of the "Internet Society"? Who appoints them? Shareholders? Not likely.
The note from the "Barnes" fellow is interesting. He was the "Security" guy at Cisco, apparently. Now, those guys at Cisco, I've heard of them. They sell all those American-designed routers that beacon all their traffic and meta-data back to the NSA servers. I'm sure that's a fine thing to do, as it keeps us safe from bad guys.
But when I look at the details of this proposed deal, I start to wonder who the "bad guys" really are.
I have an alternate "deal" idea: Fire all the "Board Members" of "The Internet Society". Tell them "Thank you for your contribution." and send them home. Replace them all with different folks who might be expected to have a better understanding of what their role should be. Just an idea. And it won't cost $1.135 billion USD. And it won't require the .org domain be re-priced.
Domains are a monoploy with outrageous fees for new TLDs. This is what should be fought and not the fact they one of the TLDs is under the control of yet another entity.
The only way an alternate DNS could become popular is if Apple, Google or Mozilla (assuming a resurgence in Firefox popularity) were pushing an alternative DNS.
.org has never meant non-profit in reality.
Considering the non-profit this domain supports is 95 years old and the domain was registered in 1995, though, selling it and switching is a non-starter. Unnecessarily annoying times ahead.
- they got $1.1 B for selling PIR
- the will build a new misterious endowment to manage this money,
I am just learning about OpenNic, so apologies if what I said makes no sense.
How is it possible to sell something for the value of annual earnings? That means that Ethos Capital will return their entire investment in 1 year — that's preposterous!
What am I missing? I can't imagine any business deal like this going through, it's clearly detrimenal to Internet Society which's going to lose a big regular income.
Still seems weird Internet Society would move from maintaining .org to investing for no real gain, but at least it's not "preposterous" as I originally claimed.
Some further background on what happened. I don't see how this can be interpreted as anything other than corruption, plain and simple.
"Former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade personally registered the domain name currently used by Ethos Capital in May and it was registered as a limited company in the US state of Delaware on May 14. That date is significant because it is one day after ICANN indicated it was planning to approve the lifting of price caps through its public comment summary.
As such it appears that the plan to purchase the .org registry was predicated on the price caps going ahead and that those behind the deal had intricate knowledge of ICANN’s internal processes."
Until someone lies under oath about it.
Convincing people to use alternate resolvers is the real problem. Already chrome has stripped out most of a URI, and from memory they are planning to go further, changing public perception around an "ugly" address is very much a social challenge rather than technical.
Memorability matters regardless of the public perception