This announcement has probably taken quite a few people by surprise..
As most domain name insiders know PIR (aka the .org registry) was not only owned by ISOC, but was also one of the biggest sources of funding for ISOC.
Earlier today ISOC formally agreed to sell PIR to a new venture capital company called Ethos Capital.
Ethos Capital appears to be a relatively new venture capital firm and it’s not at all clear which other companies they’ve invested in.
Ethos Capital’s CEO Erik Brooks was previously managing partner with Abry Partners who acquired Donuts. It’s not very clear from the Ethos Capital site how big their team is, but it does include Nora Abusitta-Ouri who they list as their “Chief Purpose Officer”.
In light of the recent backlash in some quarters about the new .org contract and the assurances from PIR senior staff about the company’s intentions, this news is probably going to generate some “interesting” feedback.
But the announcement from ISOC and the official press release are putting a very positive spin on the transaction.
Will this mean business as usual?
It certainly sounds like it.
“We are excited to support PIR’s mission and build upon the incredible work it has done to promote success and positive impact for the .ORG Community,” said Erik Brooks, Founder & CEO of Ethos Capital. “As part of our commitment to setting the gold standard of registry operations, we will be establishing a Stewardship Council that will serve to uphold PIR’s core founding values and provide support through a variety of community programs.”
Mr. Brooks added: “Importantly, throughout the transition and beyond, we are committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years. We look forward to continuing PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly and without interruption.”
But VC firms are usually motivated by one thing and one thing only. Money.
So were domain investors and others right to raise the alarm at the recent change to the .org contract?
Of course if the new owners of .org were to push the wholesale prices up significantly then the renewal rates and, more importantly, the growth numbers would be negatively impacted. However they are a VC firm, so they aren’t buying the registry “for fun”.
I suspect that quite a few people will be asking questions about this move in the coming days and weeks. I am optimistic but cautious. The team at PIR is excellent and I would generally trust the people at ISOC to not make knee jerk decisions. Even Vint Cerf is hailing this as positive!
Vint Cerf, former Chairman of the Board of ICANN and founding President of the Internet Society, said: “When the Internet Society won the bid to operate the .ORG registry, it enabled a productive and sustainable future for the organization. Public Interest Registry exercised its stewardship to the benefit of the registrants and the Internet Society’s mission. I am looking forward to supporting Ethos Capital and PIR in any way I can as they continue to expand the utility of the .ORG top-level domain in creative and socially responsible ways.”
(He isn’t right all the time, but hey, it’s Vint Cerf!)
So let’s see how this pans out.