ISOC’s CEO Andrew Sullivan has put out a statement on the sale of .org which tries to address the points raised by the Save Dot Org campaigners.
The statement addresses the concerns about pricing, rights protection mechanisms as well as how ISOC ended up running .org in the first place.
It’s worth a read, though it’s clear from some of the very passionate interventions I’ve seen here in Berlin where I’m attending the IGF that many people have already made up their minds.
Here’s the full text:
Dear .ORG Community,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding the Ethos Capital acquisition of Public Interest Registry (PIR) from the Internet Society. I hope you will accept that I’m taking the liberty of replying via email.
The Internet Society, like the signatories to your letter, is a non-profit organization with an important mission – one that needs predictable, stable funding over a long period of time. Connecting the half of the world’s population that does not have, or cannot afford, Internet access is expensive, critical work. We also need to ensure that we have the necessary resources to continue defending the Internet against those who attack it every day. And in Ethos Capital, we have found a company that wants to build upon PIR’s success and support its continued growth so that it can become an even more reliable and useful home for non-profit organizations and all members of the .ORG Community. We truly believe that this transaction is good for all stakeholders because it allows PIR to invest in the registry and expand services for the benefit of all registrants, while also providing the Internet Society with a substantial endowment that ensures its ability to continue efforts to guarantee the Internet is for everyone. Importantly, it provides the Internet Society with security and stability, freed from continued dependence on any one Internet-related industry or company.
Ethos Capital and PIR have stated their intent to keep .ORG prices reasonable. A new website – www.keypointsabout.org – has been established to answer questions that have arisen regarding the transaction, and it includes clarifying information about .ORG pricing. For example, it states clearly:
Ethos is committed to keeping .ORG accessible and reasonably priced for all, in line with PIR’s longstanding purpose-driven mission.
The current price of a .ORG domain name is approximately $10 per year. Our plan is to live within the spirit of historic practice when it comes to pricing, which means, potentially, annual price increases of up to 10 percent on average – which today would equate to approximately $1 per year.
With this construct, .ORG will continue to be one of the most affordable domain names on the market.
We are enthusiastic about the opportunity to provide enhanced services and support to the .ORG user community, and are committed to maintaining .ORG’s position as the unparalleled home to purpose-driven organizations on the Internet.
I also want to address some other misconceptions about .ORG. Although .ORG has often been thought of as a “home of non-profits”, the domain was not actually defined that way. In 1994, RFC 1591 described it this way: “ORG – This domain is intended as the miscellaneous TLD for organizations that didn’t fit anywhere else. Some non-government organizations may fit here.”
When ICANN awarded the operation of .ORG to the Internet Society, that agreement did not require that .ORG be operated by a non-profit entity or by a non-governmental organization. In fact, from 1993 through to the reassignment in 2003, .ORG was a for-profit registry, operated by a for-profit entity. In 2002, the Internet Society was not asked to operate .ORG in perpetuity but rather to be a good steward, which we have done proudly.
There is a high degree of competition in the TLD space – a fact that was not true when .ORG was awarded to PIR back in 2002. While all standard registry agreements with ICANN today no longer include price restrictions, and thus ICANN’s removal of .ORG’s was not unique to .ORG, there are market constraints in place. Given registries must announce any price increases for renewal 6 months in advance, paired with the fact that domains can be registered at current prices for up to 10 years, any operator seeking to increase prices dramatically would certainly lose customers without producing any increased revenue.
I would also like to respond to your concerns about rights protection mechanisms. They and legal takedown notices are, again, policies that have emerged from the ICANN consensus process and do not have anything to do with PIR’s change in ownership. They also are not something that the Internet Society can directly affect.
In closing, allow me to emphasize that Ethos Capital has made clear its commitment to investing in the long-term vitality of .ORG and its users, and intends to serve the needs of the broader .ORG community for many years to come. PIR’s operation of .ORG will continue as usual, with the same excellent management team and backend registry operator. All three parties— PIR, Ethos Capital and the Internet Society – are dedicated to ensuring a smooth and seamless transition, and to continuing the community orientation and strong social purpose of .ORG and PIR.
I understand very well the questions that have been raised in your letter, and that sometimes change can bring anxiety. I hope that I have been able to begin to reassure you, and I respectfully urge you and the other signatories to reconsider their objections in light of the considerations I have just outlined, as well as to consider the important benefits this moment presents, not just for the three organizations directly involved, but for the broader .ORG Community.
Will this statement change anything?
It’s hard to tell, as many people are already so spun up on the subject that they might not wish to listen to anyone else.
ICANN, however, will end up playing “piggy in the middle”. They weren’t privy to the transaction until, like everyone else, it was made public. However many parties in the ecosystem seem to think that is up to ICANN and its Board to do something about it.
But what is their chief concern?
Rights protection mechanisms?
The move to it being run by a for profit entity?
It’s not clear which aspect of this is the one that people are most concerned about.