Control of .org domains is no longer in hands of a non-profit organization and is controlled by an investment fund. In the middle of November, the Public Interest Registry (PIR), belonging to the Internet Society (ISOC), announced that it had sold the management of the Internet domain ‘.org’ – very used worldwide by social organizations and beneficial – to private investment fund Ethos Capital.
For many nonprofit organizations, though, having a .org domain name is still a matter of prestige, conveying a sense of credibility to the public. For years, the organization that manages .org names, called the Public Interest Registry, has been in the hands of a nonprofit called the Internet Society.
The ISOC, an American non-profit organization, has closed the sale for a value that the web specialized in CNET technology amounts to 1,130 million dollars. Ethos Capital will take over the web domain during the first quarter of 2020.
The Internet Society explains in a statement that the agreement represents “a new window of opportunities.” They ensure that the investment fund “is committed to guaranteeing the absolute continuity of the activity” previously developed by the PIR, and “continue to meet the highest standards in terms of public transparency and accountability.”
On the other hand, the purchase has generated discomfort between Access Now, a group in defense of free internet access, and other similar groups. They have requested the Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers (ICANN), in charge of controlling web address registers, to block the process because, they argue, “its impact on human rights has not been taken into account and the harmful effects that the elimination of price limits “would have on the use of the .org domain.
Access Now also denounces the opacity of the process and the lack of information that the company has for the new buyer “founded six months ago with the money of several prominent families linked to the Republican party in the United States, among which would be the former president of ICANN, Fadi Chehadi, as an advisor.
Hundreds of nonprofits from the YMCA to the American Alliance of Museums urged a stop to the sale. And while organizations could potentially switch to another domain if things go awry, that could mean big costs for reprinting literature, changing email addresses, and reconfiguring servers. And choosing a non-.org domain could be a hard choice, when the suffix is so associated with nonprofits in the public mind.