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The Battle For .Org Over

May 7, 2020

ICANN's decision to block the sale of the .org registry to a private equity firm has welcomed by some.

Late last week, the Internet Association of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) decided to withhold consent over a controversial transfer of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to private equity company Ethos Capital.

Just a couple of brief explainers:

While .org isn't the biggest registry, it has a large number of domain name registrations - around 10.5 million.

In November last year ICANN was notified the Internet Society had intentions of selling the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to Ethos Capital, which had reportedly offered USD $1.135 billion. This set a digital cat among the virtual pigeons.

A couple of weeks ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a letter to ICANN outlining its concerns over the sale:

"ICANN should reject the proposed change of control and open a public bidding process to select a new .ORG registry operator based on the 2002 criteria — an operator selected not for how much borrowed cash it will tender, but for how well it will stand up for NGOs."

It appears the protests had their desired effect.

"After completing extensive due diligence, the ICANN Board finds that withholding consent of the transfer of PIR from the Internet Society (ISOC) to Ethos Capital is reasonable, and the right thing to do," said the organisation on April 30.

It will come as no surprise EFF was elated by ICANN's announcement.

"This is an important victory that recognizes the registry’s long legacy as a mission-based, non-for-profit entity protecting the interests of thousands of organizations and the people they serve," said EFF.

Also not surprising was Ethos's reaction to ICANN's decision, one Ethos Capital said set a "dangerous precedent with broad industry implications".

Australian organisations (and anyone for that matter) can register a .org, but for Australian groups registering a may be a better choice given the high level of awareness and trust in the .au extension. Unlike .org with its very loose registration criteria, is reserved specifically for Australian non-government organisations (NGOs).

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