ICANN blocks the sale of the .org domain to investment company Ethos Capital. Last year, the organisation announced that the Internet Society would sell the subsidiary Public Interest Registry (PIR) to Ethos for one billion dollars.
According to ICANN, it’s unacceptable that the domain would move from a non-profit organisation to a profit organisation that has no meaningful plan to protect or serve the .org community. The organisation mentioned in a statement that they carefully assessed the transaction with input from all parties involved. The full board supported the decision to block the deal. The .org domain is mainly used by non-profits and charities and is managed by the Internet Society.
ICANN says that the organisation received letters from thirty groups that opposed the sale. Including the State Attorney of California, where the organisation’s headquarters is located. During public hearings, there were only negative reactions, and according to the organisation, almost no positive votes.
To complete the acquisition, PIR would have to take out a 360 million dollar loan. Critics feared that this would increase the cost of a .org license in order to pay off this debt earlier. The fact that a domain for non-profit organisations and charities would fall into the hands of a commercial company is a massive concern for those involved with the .org extension.
In addition to financial problems, ICANN also discovered some transparency problems. The internet watchdog is not sure whether Ethos has the necessary experience to manage more than ten million domains. Moreover, Ethos refused to disclose who was behind the investment company. ICANN has no judicial control over the non-profit organization. To force the acquisition, the Internet Society would have to file a lawsuit against ICANN.
The .org domain name is one of the largest on the internet, with more than 10 million websites. The Internet Society has managed the domain for almost 20 years.