The sale of PIR (.org) which was announced last week has generated a LOT of interest. Both Kevin at DomainIncite and Andrew over at DomainNameWire have written extensively in the last few days digging into various aspects of the sale which I’d recommend you read.
The latest salvo comes from the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) who have written to ICANN’s Board demanding that they block the sale.
The letter (PDF) references various clauses in the PIR contract with ICANN to run .org and demands that ICANN not approve the change of control.
Some of the assertions in the letter are a little hyperbolic like the one below:
Crucial policy decisions that have billion-dollar ramifications and which affect the stability of the Internet must be the subject of robust Board involvement and not left to ICANN staff
Being bluntly honest about it, the likelihood of ICANN’s Board paying much attention to this demand is pretty slim. It’d be opening Pandora’s box for ICANN to start getting involved in these kind of sales. Bear in mind the transaction is the sale of PIR as an entity and not the reassignment or sale of the .org contract.
The ICANN Board isn’t going to get involved in contract negotiations like the .org contract renewal and while some people might be worried about price increases in .org that is not going to impact the stability of the internet.
If ICANN were to get embroiled in every change of control type scenario then things would get incredibly messy and it really wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours.
Zak Muscovitch says
Michele, thanks for covering this important issue.
You stated, “Bear in mind the transaction is the sale of PIR as an entity and not the reassignment or sale of the .org contract.” The fact is that the .Org Registry Agreement specifically and expressly deems any “change of control” to be an “assignment”. The “change of control” clause was included in Section 7.5 for a reason; to enable ICANN to withhold consent if the “change of control: would result in an unacceptable material change of circumstances.
You also stated< "Being bluntly honest about it, the likelihood of ICANN’s Board paying much attention to this demand is pretty slim. It’d be opening Pandora’s box for ICANN to start getting involved in these kind of sales." What do you mean by "these types of sales?". When's the last time that the unique .org registry, home of nonprofits, was sold off to a private equity firm immediately after long standing price caps were removed? This isn't like Donuts selling a new gTLD registry to Radix. This is a private equity firm taking over a cherished legacy TLD that until recently, had secure and stable price enshrined its its contract for the benefit of nonprofits.
You also stated, "If ICANN were to get embroiled in every change of control type scenario then things would get incredibly messy and it really wouldn’t be doing anyone any favours."
Nobody is asking ICANN to withhold approval of selling a new commercial registry from Company A to Company B or to get involved in every such transaction. Rather, this is a unique and heretofore unheard of circumstance, that many view as outrageous. It should be the subject of vigorous debate and proactive oversight by the ICANN Board, who should be acting in the public's best interests, not rubber stamping such an unprecedented transaction.
Lastly, you stated, "price increases in .org [are] not going to impact the stability of the internet." Ask the 10 million .org registrants, many of which are nonprofits if unrestrained pricing makes the Internet more or less stable for them. Until recently, the .org Registry Agreement afforded registrants stable pricing through price caps. Many people, nonprofits in particular, fail to see how unrestrained pricing makes things better or more stable for .org registrants.
Michele Neylon says
We aren’t going to agree on this.
You are trying to use certain terms in order to provoke a visceral reaction from ICANN and ICANN observers.
Pricing is not a security and stability issue.
For the average small business or not for profit the price of a domain name increasing by a few percent is not going to have any tangible impact on their day to day operations. The retail price of a .org domain name is currently between $10 and $30 a year. An entry level hosting plan for a very small organisation is going to cost at least double that and many of the larger non-profits would have substantially bigger IT requirements than could be satisfied with hosting services in the sub $100 range.
Sure, if the retail price of a .org domain name were to jump into the range of 4 or 5 figures per annum then that would be an issue for a lot of organisations, but arguing against unrestrained pricing? Seriously? The Internet and the entire ecosystem has flourished due to its permissionless nature.
Thanks for your comments