Internet nonprofit leaders fight deal to sell control of .org domain

SAN FRANCISCO- A gaggle of outstanding web pioneers is mobilizing to dam the $1.1 billion sale of management of the .org web area, arguing that the takeover of .org by a newly fashioned non-public firm would damage the hundreds of thousands of nonprofits that depend on it.

Registrations for web sites ending in .org have lengthy been overseen by the U.S. nonprofit Internet Society through the Public Interest Registry (PIR). In November, the Internet Society unexpectedly introduced that it was promoting management to a year-old firm referred to as Ethos Capital. The agency counts a current former head of ICANN, the web’s governing authority, as one in all its advisers.

In a transfer to press the U.S.-based ICANN to dam the sale, outstanding web executives informed Reuters they’ve created a nonprofit cooperative they’re providing in its place proprietor of .org.

“There needs to be a place on the internet that represents the public interest, where educational sites, humanitarian sites, and organizations like Wikipedia can provide a broader public benefit,” mentioned Katherine Maher, the CEO of Wikipedia mother or father Wikimedia Foundation, who signed on to be a director of the brand new nonprofit. The crowd-sourced analysis instrument Wikipedia is probably the most visited of the 10 million .org websites registered worldwide.

“The Internet Society’s central focus is not on domain name operations,” the Internet Society mentioned in an announcement on Tuesday. “We need to focus on the goals we have – to make the Internet available to the people who don’t have it, and to make sure the Internet is defended against its attackers.”

It has beforehand mentioned that Ethos would preserve the identical administration staff, seek the advice of with nonprofits, and provide extra providers.

Hundreds of nonprofits have already objected to the transaction, apprehensive that Ethos will elevate registration and renewal costs, reduce on infrastructure and safety spending, or make offers to promote delicate knowledge or enable censorship or surveillance.

A press release supplied by a spokesperson for PIR, the Internet Society and Ethos Capital mentioned the teams had dedicated “to maintaining PIR’s historical practices on .org pricing to ensure affordability, as well as to preserving the strong policies PIR already has in place to protect freedom of expression and safeguard against censorship.”

Some mentioned they see ICANN’s response to the deal as a essential check of its sole authority over a quickly increasing area title system already dominated by non-public trade and topic to authorities pressures.

“What offended me about the Ethos Capital deal and the way it unfolded is that it seems to have completely betrayed this concept of stewardship,” mentioned Andrew McLaughlin, who oversaw the switch of web governance from the U.S. Commerce Department to ICANN, accomplished in 2016.

Maher and others mentioned the thought of the brand new cooperative is to not provide a competing monetary bid for .org, which brings in roughly $100 million in income from area gross sales. Instead, they hope that the bizarre new entity, formally a California Consumer Cooperative Corporation, can handle the area for safety and stability and ensure it doesn’t develop into a instrument for censorship.

The advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which beforehand organized a protest over the .org sale that drew in organizations together with the YMCA of the United States, Greenpeace, and Consumer Reports, can be supporting the cooperative.

“It’s highly inappropriate for it to be turned over to a commercial venture at all, much less one that’s going to need to recover $1 billion,” mentioned EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn.

The preliminary seven administrators of the cooperative embrace former founding ICANN President Michael Roberts, MacArthur Foundation philanthropist Jeff Ubois and Bill Woodcock, whose Packet Clearing House now runs technical points of the .org system beneath contract.

The new group has briefed members of the U.S. Congress and hopes to immediate the Internet Society to rethink the sale. But its greatest shot at stopping the pending sale lies with ICANN, which might veto any change in possession out of concern for the safety, reliability or stability of the .org area.

ICANN has 30 days from Dec. 30 to approve the Ethos sale, reject it, or ask extra questions, mentioned ICANN Senior Vice President Cyrus Namazi. He mentioned ICANN had not solicited public enter on the deal however would seek the advice of with its board earlier than making a remaining determination.

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