Don’t touch my .org!

May 6, 2020  - written by  in Domain names

For those who haven’t been following the drama, the third most sold and used domain in the world, .org, was recently on the verge of an ownership change.

That a top-level domain (TLD) like .org should pass from one registry to another is fairly common, especially since the creation of new TLDs (known as gTLDs). But at the same time, these ownership changes usually don’t involve the premiere domain used by NGOs and non-profits the world over. That makes it much more of a sticking point.

And for good reason—.org was set to be sold for a little more than a million dollars to an investment fund composed of former directing members of ICANN (the international institution for regulating domain names) who were known for advocating “freeing” .org from its historic registry (Public Interest Registry) at the same time as the abolition of price caps on .org… you can see how the perception of a conflict of interest arose.

And that’s what led to the creation of efforts like #SaveDotOrg that collected 64,000 individual signatures and 900 signatory organizations from around the world to put this potential sale in the spotlight. Even the Attorney General of California got involved in the drama by signing a letter sent directly to ICANN advising them to revisit their decision.

ICANN has now officially rejected the request to sell .org to the investment fund Ethos Capital!

For our part, Gandi, who ourselves protested this possible sale from the beginning, was glad to see eliminated the threat of .org being sold off to a group that would put profit over the interests of the organizations represented by .org.

And by the way, the potential intervention on the part of the State of California was certainly for a good cause (let’s watch out for white knights with good intentions in the future), but at its heart this issue calls to question a certain form of independence in Internet governance, and highlights that the failure in this model can sometimes be due to an imbalance in who the stakeholders are.