ICANN Rejects Sale Of .Org Domain From To Private Equity Firm

ICANN, the organization in charge of internet domain names, blocked the sale of the .ORG domain to a private equity firm yesterday. The $1.135 billion deal would have transferred control of more than 10 million websites in the Public Interest Registry (PIR) from the Internet Society (ISOC), a nonprofit group that manages the domains, to Ethos Capital.

In a blog post, ICANN explains that the sale created “unacceptable uncertainty” for websites in the PIR.

“The ICANN Board finds that the public interest is better served in withholding consent as a result of various factors that create unacceptable uncertainty over the future of the third largest gTLD registry,” the post states.

The sale would have left PIR $360 million, leaving them to service that debt and provide returns to its shareholders.” ICANN also questioned how current .ORG registrants would benefit from the sale or be protected after the fact, considering Ethos would have a commitment to stakeholders, first and foremost.

Ethos condemned the decision in a statement, believing that it set a “dangerous precedent with broad industry implications.

“ICANN has overstepped its purview,” they wrote, “which is limited to ensuring routine transfers of indirect control (such as the sale of PIR) do not impact the registry’s security, stability and reliability.”

“Today’s action opens the door for ICANN to unilaterally reject future transfer requests based on agenda-driven pressure by outside parties.”

The nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation praised the decision as “a major victory for the millions of nonprofits, civil society organizations, and individuals who make .org their home online.”

In November 2019, PIR announced the proposed sale, after the Internet Society and Ehtos reached an agreement that would transfer PIR’s not-for-profit status to for-profit. The Internet Society created the PIR to control the .ORG domain in 2003.

Article by: Matt Schimkowitz