back to article Internet world despairs as non-profit .org sold for $$$$ to private equity firm, price caps axed

The sale of one of the internet’s most popular registries to a private equity firm has revived concerns over how the domain name system is governed. At the end of last week, the Internet Society (ISOC) announced that it has sold the rights to the .org registry for an undisclosed sum to a private equity company called Ethos …

  1. Cronus

    Absolutely disgusting. It stinks of corruption.

    1. Peter X
      Flame

      Hateful isn't it?! So someone has a money printing machine. It works. it's making them money. But no, that isn't enough... I'm hoping there's a place in hell for such greed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I'm hoping there's a place in hell for such greed

        hell is "later" (and "maybe"), money is NOW!!!!. This is the current, mainstream, approach to everything.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I'm hoping there's a place in hell for such greed."

        http://media2.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2015_31/1146871/150729-150728-trump-tower-1601_19ec6c7edf59f1e054f6f3f22c742817.nbcnews-fp-1200-800.jpg

    2. LDS Silver badge

      It's a perfect example of cronyism when people feel free from any legal and ethical boundary.

      ICANN & C. know they can operate in a sort of "free zone" because the nobody can attempt to regulate them - as any regulation attempt will open the door for authoritarian countries to ask to include their control and censorship rules. While international organizations reached their lowest point, and are not credible.

      They know it, and are happily exploiting the standstill to get as much money as they can from resources they should have just managed in the public interest.

      My question is who allowed these people reach such positions - and why....

      1. big_D Silver badge

        My question is who allowed these people reach such positions - and why....

        Cronyism allowed it. It is an infinite loop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Just like politics

          See for example "equally safe" a policy dreamt up by a pressure group Nordic Model Now, who appear to have a total of 7 staff, run on a "shoe string" yet they "advise" the Scottish Govt (read write policy) as equally safe is lifted word for word from their talking points (pron is evil and must be banned, strippers are ALL trafficked and exploited (even patronising those who state they choose to do as the money suits them) and the Nordic Model cannot be questioned, whilst abusing and harassing those who oppose them) and ignores ALL other feminist views and in fact the Scottish Govt have refused to consult any other feminist group other than NMN.....It stinks to high heaven, makes me wonder who in Scot govt is pals with those at NMN for starters.

          What also stinks is who NMN are retweeting, many of them are spouting seriously terrible things and making acussations that make Alex Jones look well balanced.....

          Any one else who appointed a group that retweeted this sort of stuff would have been expected to resign and questions asked about the lack of vetting and how a tiny "shoe string" group was allowed to have so much input into policy....

    3. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Flame

      On an unrelated topic

      Here is an obviously fictitious ‘elevator pitch’ that has absolutely nothing to do with this article.

      ..doors close..

      Pitcher - "I’d pay peanuts for the organisation now, but if the current pricing policy changed I’d pay squillions and need some board members in a few years"

      Catcher - "Hmm…."

      Pitcher - "Here’s my details"

      ..Ping..

  2. JohnFen Silver badge

    Is it just me?

    The various developments on the internet over the last several years have been increasingly bad, mostly with the web -- which has long been getting increasingly unacceptable and smaller for me as the number of websites that are both useful and not aggressively antiuser has been shrinking. But at least the web isn't the most critical part of the internet (for me -- ymmv).

    This feels like a watershed thing, though. I fear that we've reached the point where we have to call it -- the battle to keep the internet operating in the best interests of people everywhere has been lost.

    This statement from the Internet Society:

    “We believe many in the community see the long-term benefits of this deal,” it said in a statement, arguing that it will “promote long-term financial security and more diversified funding for years to come to support the Internet Society’s vision that the Internet is for everyone; and PIR will be able to expand its mission to engage in purposeful work to advance important issues and further strengthen its commitment to the .org community.”

    is just the purest of bullshit. They've sold us out.

    I guess the question is, what now?

    Am I being too pessimistic here?

    1. DeKrow
      Mushroom

      Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

      I've tended to mostly ignore and down-play any announcements of "The Internet ain't what it used to be", mainly because the 'old internet' still exists for those willing to spend the time to search for it; the "new" Internet is in addition to the internet of old, it didn't replace it despite the fact it shouts more loudly for our attention. "New Internet" is the tourist magnets, whilst the "Old Internet" is the still-present hinterland.

      This decision, however, is a much more fundamental change. The combination of 'removal of price caps' and 'sale to a private company' for one of the three original TLD's is market / regulatory capture that has the potential to be more effectively damaging and lucrative than domain-squatting.

      An organisation's domain name is synonymous with their reputation, and for .org being generally non-profits, they're less likely to enjoy being squeezed to maintain their reputable domain. It also has the potential for harm in that bad actors may outbid (or wait out) a non-profit for their domain name, then run profitable scams on the back of the domain names reputation (eventually destroying the domain's reputation and potentially the reputation of the organization that once owned it).

      I wonder if copyright or some other "brand protection" strategy could mitigate this but, again, not-for-profits aren't generally the litigious type.

      No, you're not being pessimistic. You're bang on the money. Literally.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

        However you want to look at it, the old Internet still needs DNS.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

          It needs a DNS, but I'm increasingly thinking that it needs an alt root DNS to use instead of the ICANN one.

          1. Angelaina2014

            Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

            I have been thinking the same thing. A fork in Icann would be appropriate.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

              "A fork in Icann would be appropriate."

              As long as it's a large one, with razor-sharp tines...

              1. Trigonoceps occipitalis

                Re: Is it just me? Fuck no!

                Blunt tines, it'll hurt more!

    2. Peter X

      Re: Is it just me?

      It strikes me that the problem is that there isn't any competition within the registries; would it not work better if it was possible to buy a .org (or other tld) from more than one organisation. Is that feasible?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Is it just me?

        Not really. At the moment, a .org can be purchased from a number of registrars who all have to turn around and pay a fee to the administrator of .org. If we move that relationship one level down, and make multiple administrators for the registry, then a) they will have to pay a fee to whoever really runs the thing so that place can do the actual administration, b) nothing stops them deciding, either by active collusion or merely moving with the tide, to set the price as high as they'd like, c) there are more people who can be swayed to making anti-customer moves, and d) there are increased opportunities for one of the "administrators" to have a disconnect with the other administrators and do something like sell a domain name twice.

        Domain names, unfortunately, are one of those things where a monopoly is needed at some level. It simply isn't feasible to do it otherwise. As always is the case when a monopoly is needed, it is absolutely critical that the monopoly be rigorously overseen by independent parties, independent of any conflicts of interest, and accountable to customers before business partners. If we could get that implemented, we'd be in good shape. Sadly, dreams often disintegrate when you wake up.

      2. the hatter

        Re: Is it just me?

        You can buy it from several places, but they all buy it from the organisation that pays for the infra to make it exist. The alternative is an 'alt root' - right now, most people ask icann about every single domain, who ask the nominated registry. If you add a different, or a second root, you could ask one, the other, or both where 'archive.org' is located on the internet. A different domain root may have an entirely separate .org directory, where archive'org either doesn't exist, or is in the same place, or is in some other place entirely (possibly owned by a completely different organisation). You might experience this on a massively smaller scale, if your company has for instance test and internal systems listed on a nameserver that only answers internally - instead of asking ICANN where 'yourcompany.com' is, your computer is told to ask your company nameserver directly. Whereas the internal and real NSs both know that www.yourcompany.com has a certain IP address, the internal one knows where test.yourcompany.com lives, the public one will tell you it simply doesn't exist. controlpanel.yourcompany.com may have one address for outside users, but internal users get pointed at a version with supervisor/admin functions included.

    3. Chris Hills

      Re: Is it just me?

      I strongly agree that the internet is on the verge of being lost to corporate and state interests. It is no longer a useful tool for people.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it just me?

      When they say "community", they don't mean internet users or engineers, they mean greedy capitalists.

  3. C. P. Cosgrove

    ?

    "As just one example, it appears that both board and staff members are free to hold shares in companies whose value is closely linked to decisions that they make and that they are not required to disclose such holdings."

    While I am not pointing the finger at any one person a set-up like that is virtually a licence for insider trading. Certainly it does nothing to prevent the possibility. It does indeed stink of corruption. And as for making a decision with such revenue implications at an administrative level rather than running it past the Board, the mind boggles !

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: ?

      While I am not pointing the finger at any one person a set-up like that is virtually a licence for insider trading. Certainly it does nothing to prevent the possibility. It does indeed stink of corruption.

      With the amount of money at stake, it's perhaps unsuprising stake holders decide they want it for themselves. I'm hoping the US's previous warnings about conflicts of interest will now turn to enforcement action, and Ethos and other offices are in US jurisdiction. As well as insider trading, this also stinks of self-dealing.

      1. IGotOut

        Re: ?

        Is this the same US "conduct of interest" where the over seer of Comms is a ship and the President has the military stay at his Golf courses?

  4. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Freedom of Information Act.

    ElReg should file a flurry of FOIA requests to strangle the info out of all the parties involved & shed the sunlight of Truth into the dark evil corners of this clusterfuck.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Freedom of Information Act.

      Freedom Of Information requests do not apply in the USA (the "land of the free"... hahahahahaha). They only apply in what is currently* the free world, not the utterly corrupt world.

      * Yep, it's going down the wrong** route rather fast...

      ** Unless you consider bribery, lying, insider trading and belligerent profiterring a good thing*.

      *** Highlight politician of choice at this point: xxxxxx xxxxx, xxxxx xxxxxxx, xxxxx xxxx-xxxxx

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Freedom of Information Act.

        "Freedom Of Information requests do not apply in the USA"

        Huh? Yes, they do. If your request is of something the government really doesn't want to release, they can drag their feet and stonewall, requiring you to sue, but they certainly do apply.

      2. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Freedom of Information Act.

        The U.S. federal government and most if not all state governments all have FOIA legislation. Your insult is factually incorrect on all grounds, which you could have found out with about ten seconds of research. Searching "U.S. freedom of information act" would have done it just fine.

        The problem in this case is that FOIA requests only work on government documents. ICANN and the various companies are not government entities, and thus their documents can't be demanded in that way. The only documents the government would have at this point are ones about details of incorporation or any covered financial proceedings, which are already public, and information about taxes, which are not FOIAble as they aren't internal to the government. Finding out the details on these corrupt dealings will need some other method for data retrieval.

        1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

          FOIA legislation

          If that is the current legislation then it's of little use. It should apply across the board as long as the person requesting it prove a sound reason for its release

          1. AndrueC Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: FOIA legislation

            You already have the legal right to ask to view anything you want. It's just that - unlike governments - companies have the right to refuse your request without explanation. And that's the way it should be. Companies should be able to keep things to themselves. A lot of things are commercially sensitive and would damage the company's competitiveness if made public.

            Of course if the enquiry is being made by the authorities using a valid warrant then it's another matter.

            1. ibmalone Silver badge

              Re: FOIA legislation

              A lot of things are commercially sensitive and would damage the company's competitiveness if made public.

              Sadly sometimes those commercially sensitive details include, "Who's on the take"?

          2. AndersH

            Re: FOIA legislation

            There might one or two unintended consequences of that sort of law!

  5. Claptrap314 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Fork, anyone?

    ICANN wants competition, I say, "give it some".

    <sigh>

    If only.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fork, anyone?

      Yes .... I was thinking just that very word 'Fork' or something similar !!! :)

      P.S.

      US of A ....... Corrupt from the POTUS down ..... :(

      I know that there is a long history of competing with the USSR/Russia, as superpowers are wont ..... but there is no need to 'copy' everything !!!

      ;) :)

      1. Terje

        Re: Fork, anyone?

        I'm currently leaning towards the USA being a mix of oligarchy with kleptocracy by proxy :)

    2. elDog

      Re: Fork, anyone?

      I hear some outfit in St. Petersburg (RU) or another in Beijing and probably a lot more in places like Israel, North Korea have very good registration systems.

      Anyone remember the days when the yanks could be mainly trusted (80%)? You knew they were gathering packet information but it was collegial. Now they are trusted about 1%. So bad that even their oranganus peeResident uses foreign communications equipment.

  6. irg

    A complete mess

    I'm not going to pretend to be surprised that ICANN is corrupt and useless - we all know that. The scale of this deal and the ability for it to occur in such secrecy is something that simply shouldn't be possible. The lack of regulation of domain pricing for the big ticket domains is another way to ruin the internet even more.

    Things like this make me wish Nominet was regulated properly

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yawn

    The only people worried about PIR ditching its non-profit status are people that don't understand how non-profits still turn a profit in everything but name. Plenty of people are very, very rich thanks to their non-profits orgs, yet somehow people choose to turn a blind eye to it because of some romanticized, noble ideal that they believe comes with non-profit status.

    Wake up.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Yawn

      Says the anonymous coward. What point do you think you are making here?

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Yawn

        I volunteer in charity shop and there’s one guy who gets on a high horse of offended if we ask more for quality goods. We get for eg a seriously nice leather jacket donated from a fashion name brand so it’s £25 not £5. You are still getting an absolute bargain but some seem to think we are some sort of pound shop when there are paid staff and the premises cost money so we have daily sales targets and an obligation to get as much as we can from donated goods.

        Fortunately there are more people who appreciate quality and the bargain and will happily pay £25 for the right leather jacket. We just have to keep a close eye on it, it’s often put on a torso model not on the rack. Yes, we prosecute shoplifters but that doesn’t stop them trying.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: Yawn

          I have the same experience - thier view is "you got it for nothing so you should sell it for next to nothing".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yawn

        The point is that people are reacting because non-profits are somehow immune to the evil introduced by the greedy profit motive, as evidenced by the hordes of downvoting idiots. But the reality is quite different and anyone who understands that non-profits still have a profit motive isn't swayed by such decisions. In fact, they'll have to be more transparent now as for-profit than than were as non-profit.

        1. Da Weezil

          Re: Yawn

          In the case of the charity I volunteer with, every penny that goes to the money grubbing venture capitalist scum (or thier supporters) is money that DOESN'T go to the core function of providing Hospice care to the terminally ill, now I can understand that to those to whom "profit is all" this may seem a waste, but the fact is that not all "not for profits" are really "businesses" that abuse the Not For Profit status, but dont tar all charities with this same brush. Excess profits extorted in this manner is really against the spirit of the domain.

          Maybe we need a new TLD purely for the (registered) charitable sector, and abandon .org to the venture capitalists hopefully to sink without trace. The USA has a real problem with its language usage - "Not For Profit" is a clear example. Its a shame that so many organisations that are not "disguised profit businesses" are caught up in this, and it is easily fixable with a TLD for purely charitable organisations that are registered with a regulator as they have to be in the UK, and I'm sure other conutries have a similar system.

          1. NATTtrash
            Alert

            Re: Yawn

            The USA has a real problem with its language usage...

            I think it's more a culture difference than a language difference. Or, if you will, being ignorant on the fact that not everything in the world is as it is in the US. Or they want. Or they judge it should be. I sincerely hope not, but it wouldn't surprise me if the next one to go is the .edu TLD, because "all schools/ universities are commercial organisations any way, so making a profit".

    3. prinz

      Re: Yawn

      I have to agree - in part - there is a lot of that going on, but it isn't every non-profit either.

      In the US, pull the 990 Forms for "non-profit"organizations -- might be surprised just how "poor" many of the Leader-type folks are in these "non-profits" - here is an example :

      https://www.charitywatch.org/top-charity-salaries

      Or, look at the 990 of the Internet Society mentioned in the article, for a "non-profit" their "altruistic" staff was making some good money even before all of this :

      https://apps.irs.gov/pub/epostcard/cor/541650477_201712_990_2018121916022417.pdf

      But, just poking around your *local* charities/non-profits is also interesting (in the US, you can get the 990 forms here : https://apps.irs.gov/app/eos/) -- and see if they are funded by government grants and then trace those non-profits to see if they give to other non-profits and see who "owns" them, and see which politicians are friends of said "non-profit" directors, and well, you might find an "interesting" pattern....

    4. PicoAllen

      Re: Yawn

      Greedy dishonest people always imagine that everyone else is just as greedy and dishonest and use it as an excuse for their own behaviour and opinions.

  8. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The Internet is for everyone

    Internet Society’s vision that the Internet is for everyone

    Yeah; But only if they have phat wallets or deep pockets full of loot

    Wasn't there an alt DNS project somewhere? I seem to recall you pointed your DNS upstream to the "alt" servers and they would answer if they had a local record; or pass the "real" DNS entry if they didn't?

    Maybe it's time for a fully decentralized DNS... Block-chain anyone ;)

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: The Internet is for everyone

      Yes, there are a number of them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alternative_DNS_root

    2. DeKrow

      Re: The Internet is for everyone

      I was going to mention in my earlier comment that this decision could lead to further fracturing of the Internet due to the potential to spur along custom DNS projects.

      What are the chances that the operators of the root Domain Servers can protest this decision via disobedience by refusing to update .org records?

      If this situation is one of the "pure suits / non-technical / boardroom-only" decisions, is there a critical mess of techy-resistance to it such that disobedience / resistance is possible?

      1. Long John Brass Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: The Internet is for everyone

        If this situation is one of the "pure suits / non-technical / boardroom-only" decisions, is there a critical mess of techy-resistance to it such that disobedience / resistance is possible?

        Well the browser guys are already moving the browsers to TLS only DNS lookups via a "trusted" resolver.

        I was thinking about some sort of truly distributed back-end that still serves up what look to be port53 DNS records. But such that everyone gets to play on a level pitch

        Something along the lines of what the LetsEncrypt guys did for TLS certs?

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: The Internet is for everyone

          What's to stop ISPS from just hijacking the port wholesale? DNS over TLS uses a dedicated port, too, which can ALSO be hijacked wholesale.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: The Internet is for everyone

            What's to stop ISPS from just hijacking the port wholesale? DNS over TLS uses a dedicated port, too, which can ALSO be hijacked wholesale.

            Not sure it'd really be hijacking, other than possibly an IP thing. So if ICon/ISuc could argue trademark protection over .com/org/net.. Which is possible. Otherwise ISP's can and do run their own DNS, and the difference would be no longer respecting the authority of the root-servers. Challenge would I think be contractual between .org renter and registrar.

          2. Tom 38 Silver badge

            Re: The Internet is for everyone

            What's to stop ISPS from just hijacking the port wholesale? DNS over TLS uses a dedicated port, too, which can ALSO be hijacked wholesale.

            Only if they can MitM your TLS communications. No ISP provided certs are on my systems, so if they tried to intercept DoH requests from me, it would just fail.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: The Internet is for everyone

              An ISP may simply use a certificate certified from up the chain: to the point if you don't have it, you can't surf, period. Plus, if they're MiTM from point zero, their certificate is the first (and probably ONLY) one you ever see. Isn't that how corporate secure proxies work?

    3. Fred Goldstein

      Re: The Internet is for everyone

      No, blockchain isn't the answer. It never is. But there could be alternative roots.

      ICANN has no legal authority. It is not a government regulator (thank FSM). It is a consultancy. It recommends that DNS resolvers point to its selected roots. But you can run a DNS server of your own and point it wherever you want. Louis Pouzin, who invented the Internet (in France in 1972), ran an alternative root a while ago.

      Of course it takes the ISPs that most users systems point to to make a difference. And they're not going to shift unless things get really bad. And ICANN has not been really bad, even if decisions like this cause some serious head scratching. But the option exists.

  9. coconuthead

    TLD allocation should never have been left private and US-based

    It's looking like a historical mistake now not to have placed governance of the Internet under the ITU (International Telecommunications Union). It nearly happened and was a close thing. Some western countries were concerned that it would allow internet censorship in other countries, but that happened anyway.

    I've had the same mobile phone number for decades, and, like most people, it's important to me that it not change. I don't get my phone provider or some third party shaking me down for money every year just to keep it. No-one would accept that, and no-one should accept it for domain names either.

  10. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Insider trading?

    Surely even the US has laws that are being broken here.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Oh but no, that's the thing. No laws are being broken, they're just being fucked over the table from behind.

      You see, the spirit of the law does not matter any more. Only how the law is written, and you can count on the USA's current crop of government administrators to exploit any aspect they can find to sodomize said spirit thoroughly.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        "You see, the spirit of the law does not matter any more. "

        I'm not really sure it ever did. This is why I often point out that what is legal and what is right are two different things.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Insider trading?

      Insider trading laws are related to public stocks. I don't think those are involved here.

  11. Barry Rueger
    Mushroom

    We Told You So!

    Back in the day, some twenty-five years ago, the Internet was a sparkly new thing, and the noun was still capitalised.

    Probably the biggest debate on-line - aside from "copyright doesn't apply" - was whether commercial interests should be allowed on the 'net. The arguments were long, and they were passionate, but at the end of the day a society where everything was for sale won the game.

    Now we have an Internet where we are bombarded with advertising, where every iota of our lives are monitored and processed to better select which ads we see, and where the the idea of a non-commercial Internet is seen as a quaint and old-fashioned idea.

    One by one nearly every part of the Internet that was free of commercial exploitation has been bought and sold, or like the Usenet archives that Google snapped up, shut down when it seemed that there was no profit to be made.

    If you're too young to remember those days you should consider yourself lucky. Those of who do will just despair for what the Facebooks and Googles have done to the beautiful Internet that we used to have.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: We Told You So!

      Seconded, the old Usenet was a wonderful thing. It’s now a shadow of its former self and you have to pay to play. What’s the point? it’s become another walled garden.

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: We Told You So!

      "The arguments were long, and they were passionate, but at the end of the day a society where everything was for sale won the game."

      Yep.

      When that battle was lost, I declared to my colleagues that "the internet is dead". At the time, they all laughed at me. None of them laugh anymore.

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: We Told You So!

      I remember that. I also remember thinking then, "how exactly do you propose to stop them?" To this day I don't know what the answer to that might have been.

    4. NATTtrash

      Re: We Told You So!

      Yep, remember it too. More specifically sitting in a meeting room and marketing types posing the question: "So what about this new internet thing? What should we as a company do with it?" And then looking at others, because, as usual, they have no fscking clue what they are talking about. Let alone do something productive, like solving something, themselves...

  12. Canva

    Who is profiting from overcharging nonprofits?

    Boom! Excellent article. First one to put all the pieces together.

    Every point in this article could be expanded into a 10 page article in its own right.

    The farcical justifications offered by ICANN to support their disastrous policy decisions do not speak well to ICANN's competence or understanding of the issues.

    NO - .com and .org, with their 30 year histories and established base of registrants are not the same as brand new extensions with no existing registrants, and they don't belong on contracts with terms that make sense only for name spaces that are being created from scratch where any new registrants are aware that prices can be raised on them at will.

    NO - ICANN cannot get out of price regulation, because it is not the regulator, it is the OWNER of .org, and that ownership was entrusted to it by the US Government when it empowered ICANN to manage the DNS. If ICANN does not want to be a price regulator, then it should allow the market to determine prices - by opening up the .org registry to COMPETITIVE BIDDING, which it should have done originally.

    NO - entering into perpetual contracts is not sound management, nor is there any justification for it.

    NO - the guidance that you received from the stakeholder constituencies did not represent the interests of diverse stakeholders. You heard PIR talking points parroted by the ISOC members and allies who populate all levels of iCANN. These are further pushed by all the people paid by Verisign to push Verisign's interests throughout ICANN - and Verisign wants uncapped pricing to be ICANN's policy for .com as well. When the constituency purporting to represent nonprofits comes out with a statement in favor of raising prices on .org domain names so that nonprofits will need to pay tens of millions of dollars a year in unjustified fees to benefit ISOC, then that's a clue that the non-commercial constituency has been captured by ISOC. When thousands of actual nonprofits express their adamant opposition to price increases through the public comments, that's a clue that the non-commercial constituency does not represent the actual non-commercial community, but it has been captured. When the Business Constituency, representing companies that collectively own tens of thousands of .com domain names, comes out in favor of enabling registries with monopoly power in no-bid perpetual contracts to raise prices without limit, that is Verisign speaking through its representatives, not the true interest of businesses who don't want to be dependent on a third party for the continued right to use their online presence.

    NO - long established registrants cannot easily pick up and move.

    NO - a 20 year history of trust built up on a nonprofit's .org domain cannot be swapped out for a different domain.

    NO - even if a nonprofit rebranded it must still keep renewing its existing .org domain name, otherwise someone else could register it.

    NO - it is not sound policy to make nonprofits vulnerable to unjustified price increases to benefit the unknown big money funding Abry and Ethos Capital.

    NO - ICANN does not want to risk reading an exposé in the paper one day that the true owners of PIR, who provided the funds to acquire it, are corrupt oligarchs who have been permitted to plunder the non-profit community of funds. (Don't know that is the case. Don't know that isn't the case. That's the point.) Perhaps ICANN will want to find out who the true owners of Ethos Capital are before the acquisition of PIR by Ethos Capital is complete.

    NO - ICANN does not want to enable Ethos Capital to one day sell the online home of non-profits to an unethical business, let's call it Unethos Capital, perhaps it is a company controlled by a businessperson of unsavory reputation who, thanks to ICANN's ineptitude, can treat the donations made to the nonprofit community as his personal piggy bank to raid at will by raising prices on .org domain names higher and higher.

    ICANN leadership appears to be single minded in its focus on destroying the stability of the DNS and their own reputations.

    It is a sad statement of the low esteem in which the ICANN leadership is held that Kevin Murphy, in his article on DomainIncite (domainincite.com/24988-i-attempt-to-answer-icas-questions-about-the-terrible-blunder-org-acquisition), believes that the efforts to persuade ICANN to prevent this disaster have as much chance of success as "an ice sculptor in hell".

    1. nematoad Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Who is profiting from overcharging nonprofits?

      "...entering into perpetual contracts is not sound management, nor is there any justification for it."

      Of course there is. To the people making unjustified profits from this little earner.

      As to the competence of those involved. It has been proven over the years that they are only good at one thing: manipulating the system to benefit themselves. So why is this such a surprise?

      This is a prime example of people with the the prerogative of the harlot . Power without responsibility.

  13. STOP_FORTH
    Go

    Alternate Internet

    All the pipes and switches are already in place. IETF already did all the hard stuff. Run Internet 2.0 in parallel, brand new namespace, brand new address space (tunnelled through IP4 and 6), no ads, end to end encryption, sender verification on e-mail, bring back bottom posting (stop sniggering at the back), no more attachments - everything is a URL, compulsory cat videos, ASCII art, perpetual driver and BIOS archives, unicorns for everyone.

    And I want it yesterday.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Alternate Internet

      Fie! Bottom posting is the work of the anti-Spaghetti Monster!

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Thumb Up

        Re: Alternate Internet

        Yet it works fine in this very comments section!

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Alternate Internet

          It works fine in the comments section because we want to read all the comments. And when we only want to read new comments, we often simply jump to the ones we wrote or remember and read replies to that. Top posting works well when we've already read the email they're replying to, and all we need is the new content. I'm sure we're all on an email train that goes back three months, four people added to the list of senders, and sixteen misunderstandings about something that is no longer important, and I do not need to read any of that again.

          What would really be best is a button to switch from one method to the other method. Bottom posting when the history is read and top posting when I only care about the most recent thing. That would likely require more markup inside the email though.

          1. STOP_FORTH
            Thumb Up

            Re: Alternate Internet

            Good points. To be fair, designing Internet 2.0 all by myself is a tad ambitious. You can have e-mail.

            Points to consider:-

            Should death be mandatory for thread-splitters or would working on a help-desk for six months be sufficient for a first offence?

            All time stamps in displayed e-mail to be in UTC/MJD and local time and date of sender. Local time and date of sender should not be restamped every time someone new adds to thread. (Thank you MS, you made following long e-mail trails from APAC, with four or more timezones, an absolute joy.)

            No markup of any kind, except URLs. Jumping to top and bottom of thread can be accomplished by looking at UTC/MJD header. Might allow monospaced fonts for code and to improve look of ASCIIart.

            Emojis verboten. All smileys must be typed.

            All send addresses to be verified.

            All content to be encrypted with unbreakable, augmented ROT13.

            And anything else you can think of.

            Have it in my inbox by Christmas, then you can start on some April 1st RFCs.

            (Might have to change RFC to IDPTT - Internet Done Properly This Time.)

    2. Terje

      Re: Alternate Internet

      Can I have cute pictures of sloths as well? I need those to stay sane during the work week!

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Alternate Internet

        You can only have cute photos of sloths if you let each algal cell on their fur have a cut and an image copyright. What you can’t tell algal cells apart? so your cellist now you beast.

      2. STOP_FORTH

        Re: Alternate Internet

        Sloths and elephants swimming would be acceptable substitutes for cat videos.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Alternate Internet

      "Run Internet 2.0 in parallel, brand new namespace, brand new address space"

      This makes me think...

      My friends and I have been running such a thing for our own use for almost 15 years now. I also know that we aren't the only ones, and such "shadow nets" are actually more common than you would think.

      Since the internet really is nothing more than "a network of networks", it is entirely possible that these shadow nets could coordinate with each other to form a parallel internet in every sense of the word.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: The Next Big Quake : Alternate Internet with Earth Shaking News Networks*

        Since the internet really is nothing more than "a network of networks", it is entirely possible that these shadow nets could coordinate with each other to form a parallel internet in every sense of the word. .... JohnFen

        That creates with AI, Almighty Adept and Politically Astute Underground Movement, JohnFen.

        And Quite Perfect for Present Progress, MeThinks.

        *And operating already in the here and now beta testing for greater future use, legacy systems with analogue architectures which are defaulted to Sub-Prime SCADA** Command and Control Systems.

        **Supervisory Control Analysis Data Acquisition Systems.

      2. STOP_FORTH
        Happy

        Re: Alternate Internet

        I was only half joking. Once you have defined namespace and addresses nearly everything else can be leeched off existing technology. Start small, ban commerce, win!

        Oh, and nick all the good stuff from DECnet.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Alternate Internet

          "nick all the good stuff from DECnet."

          Not a terrible idea, but that's not what we did. Our private internet is entirely based on standard internet technology. Except we don't (yet) run a DNS -- the network is too small and doesn't change enough for that to be necessary yet. We exchange host files as needed instead (kickin' it old-school!)

          Our network does not require the public internet to work (although it does have a tunnel through it) -- we can connect to it through old-school modems to cover us in the case of internet outages. We even have a microwave link to a subnet that is too remote to get reliable internet service.

          We also run a gateway to the real internet, mostly to provide internet service to that remote area (we essentially run a micro-ISP to provide public internet service to the neighbors there, which covers the cost of the microwave link).

          1. STOP_FORTH
            Headmaster

            Re: Alternate Internet

            Well, there's the next problem. We're going to need some new technical terms. An internet is two or more networks joined together, but this definition comes from a time when a network was a bunch of hosts physically connected together with layer 1 copper.

            Ignoring your gateway to the Internet, I'd describe what you have running as a network rather than an internet although I guess it's really some kind of LAN/WAN combo.

            So we will need more vigorous definitions of LANs, WANs, VLANs, internets etc and probably a whole bunch of new descriptive words for structures and concepts.

            Plus we'll need a new layer model. Better make it bigger than 4 or 7, say 28?

            We'll need a whole new list of acronyms as well.

            Can I leave this with you? I have to work on addresses. Obviously the numerical addresses will just be prime numbers coded up using that weird extensible scheme they have in SNMP. All TLDs and sub-domains will be taken from Roger's Profanisaurus.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Alternate Internet

              "I guess it's really some kind of LAN/WAN combo."

              Yes, it is. Technically, it's a WAN that a number of LANs are connected to. But I call it a "private internet" because in terms of protocols and services, it's the same as the internet (and technically, the internet itself is a WAN that a number of LANs are connected to). But maybe we could call it an "outernet"?

          2. gr00001000

            Re: Alternate Internet - Sounds good to me

            How can I join for a useful on-going alternative to COMMERCIAL NET © what used to be known as the Internet. After all the writings on the wall for wikipedia.ORG and useful free sites.

            I would like to submit my application to your alternative Internet and offer the possibility of extending it in the future through a local Wifi MESH.

            1. STOP_FORTH
              Unhappy

              Re: Alternate Internet - Sounds good to me

              All are welcome, except spammers, keylogger distributers, virus writers, targetted advertisers, unwanted video ads, noisy audio ads, encrypting ransomeware and anyone else I can think of!

              I don't think this would require a huge amount of work but would need things like servers to run alternative DNS.

              TBH I'm surprised the pristine/naive Internet/Web lasted as long as it did. Coming from a communications/broadcast background I was aware of the cost of bandwidth services. Whenever I went to any talks/lectures about the new-fangled Web I would usually ask who paid for all of the data. Never got a straight answer, usually a lot of hand-waving.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A.I.

      STOP_FORTH,

      do you mean the good'ole internet will no more be https://youtu.be/LybAHotsvOg ?

      yaawn...

      scarcely (-:

      1. STOP_FORTH
        Alien

        Re: A.I.

        That is bonkers, but one of the better things I have seen on YT recently.

        Obviously YouTube won't be allowed in Internet 2.0 address space but we may have to allow users to tunnel out to it.

        Otherwise it will be a case of "If you're not on the list, you're not coming in!" Rigorously enforced by BSD bouncers.

  14. batfink Silver badge

    Unfortunately it's just us

    Part of the problem here is that most of the population don't understand the issue, so outrage at the public/political level will be minimal. Try explaining the problem to your mum, and gauge the "general public" reaction from hers.

    We here understand, and are justifiably outraged. Unfortunately we're a tiny minority.

    Yes, the principle is simple: use your position to make a lucrative change, then set up a company (however indirectly) to benefit. However, when you try to generate public feeling about it, people are just going to glaze over and say "Internet stuff - too hard".

    BTW I don't believe this counts as Insider Trading. The person/people involved didn't use secret knowledge to make money. The company domain name was registered after the change, so the information was public at the time. The .org domain was then sold to a company without a public bidding process. It's just pure corruption IMO. What US laws are there to prosecute this?

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately it's just us

      When you're talking corruption, especially on as high a level as this, laws don't help, as the corruption seeps into the laws themselves. This is the "ink on a page" phase.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    since it was established a few months earlier

    nothing to see here, move along, nothing to see here, perfectly normal, nothing to see here...

  16. James Anderson Silver badge

    Why not abandon DNS?

    All it does is map a made up name to an IP address.

    Most people locate a website via a google search or a link in an e-mail or article, a raw IP address would work just as well if not better than a domain name.

    1. Fonant

      Re: Why not abandon DNS?

      Would work OK until the server was changed or relocated, needing a new IP address. One level of indirection from the "human" address to the "machine" address is actually very useful to have.

    2. Joe Bryant

      Re: Why not abandon DNS?

      There's more to the internet than websites. I'd rather my email address wasn't a string of numbers.

    3. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Why not abandon DNS?

      And of course back when the web was brand new you had to put numerical IP addresses in. The world didn’t fall over, it was smaller but it still worked. When we had to type htttp://www all the time it didn’t kill us either. Why shouldn’t there be some sort of competency hurdle? the kids will all get it and be all over it.

      But the the kids see nothing wrong with selling their personal info for access to the thing they just have to have to be ‘cool’ and in with their friends. That will all come to really major grief one day. I predict the day will come where people are made unpeople and denied their own identities through all this.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Why not abandon DNS?

        "And of course back when the web was brand new you had to put numerical IP addresses in."

        Not really. Back before DNS was a thing, everyone shared host files that had the list of names and their IP addresses. You had to periodically update that file from other authoritative servers. This rapidly became unwieldy and increasingly infeasible. In essence, DNS was a way to stop having to share these files and give everyone a way to access the entire database in its current state.

        And let's not forget the old UUCP bang path. Or let's, depending on how you felt about them.

    4. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Why not abandon DNS?

      "a raw IP address would work just as well if not better than a domain name."

      Not really. DNS exists to solve a very real problem. Servers can change IP addresses, for instance. If you didn't have a domain name, then doing that would require that you let everyone who cares know what the new IP address is. This is not realistic (and especially not if the server is being accessed automatically via software).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why not abandon DNS?

      Without domain names you can't have multiple sites on a web server using the same IP/port combination. You need to use host headers for this. You would also break stuff like GSLB and content switching on an ADC.

      How would you do TLS? What name would you use in your certificate?

  17. steelpillow Silver badge

    We don't need no stinkin' DNS

    Seems to me that a new naming system should be perfectly feasible, just like DNS was. For the sake of argument call it Open Naming System, ONS. Browsers would just need a way of knowing whether to point an address resolution request at a DNS or ONS service, for example by prefixing every ONS url with a suitable flag character or whatever. If we can build the dark web through TOR and run IP v4 and v6 alongside each other we can do this too. It wouldn't happen overnight, but if the moneygrubbers push their luck too far it's the way freedom-lovers will go.

    1. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: We don't need no stinkin' DNS

      An alternative to a new protocol would be to just abandon the current top level DNS servers (there's only 13 or 14 of them I think) and have everyone move over to some new ones that point .com and .org etc to some responsible outfit rather than ICANN's buddies (Verison, this new one - forgot the name already - Ethos!, etc), thus cutting them out of the loop (and their cash flow) instantly and permanently.

      The current situation has been openly and blatantly abused for years, but as has already been pointed out on this forum, the situation is getting ridiculous and it's only going to get worse.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: We don't need no stinkin' DNS

        They're still works of Man, though. ANY work of Man can be corrupted with enough effort.

  18. poohbear

    The geeks need to take back control from the suits. Hopefully soon.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The OLIGARCH SQUEEZE IS ON...

    Get used to oligarchs squeezing every last dollar out of any formerly "public" resources.

  20. Not Enough Coffee

    Thanks for the great article. I don't think this amount of detail will be provided elsewhere.

  21. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Thanks to El Reg

    When they first warned us of the possibility of .org domains suffering rip off prices my sole .org domain was up for renewal, so I went for the maximum 10 years. I wonder what the next renewal will cost me.

  22. Garymrrsn

    Look on the (sort of) bright side

    Unrestrained greed coupled with unrestrained Capitalism results in the frogs jumping out of the pot before they are cooked.

  23. Max Vernon

    Icann?, more like TheyCann

    Apparently ICANN can, and apparently will screw over whoever they like. Time for them to be reigned in.

  24. Mage Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Icann

    Why are they in charge?

    What do they actually do to protect users and the "Internet"? Or do they exist to maximise the return for big corporations?

    It stinks.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Icann

      It's very useful to have some single authority that allocates names and addresses. Otherwise it can get prohibitively difficult to avoid two people trying to use the same ones.

      That said, the current situation with ICANN is utterly ridiculous and is failing us. Some alternative would be nice -- preferably one that is more resistant to corruption than what we have now.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Icann

        Resistant to corruption? HAH! It's a Work of Man.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Icann

          That's why I said "resistant to" and not "immune from".

        2. Angelaina2014

          Re: Icann

          Thanks for your one-sentence thesis on everything that's wrong. You've added scintillating details and depth to this formerly hopeless conversation. Please keep playing that harp, and that dead horse over there, flog on it more, too.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Icann

            Thank you (in all honesty). You made my very point by your response. Does "OK Boomer" ring a bell?

            Sometimes, less is more because the context of those words convey more than the words, kinda like how a picture is worth a thousand words.

            The point is, Man is imperfect and prone to corruption. Thus, anything issued by man is imperfect and prone to corruption. This includes any attempts to correct the corruption that naturally results from our initial attempts. "It's a Work of Man" means it's always going to go to pot. That's how we are, sadly. Thus why no civilization on earth has lasted for very long.

            And BTW, if it isn't immune, it's hopeless. Corruption of this manner is like the start of an avalanche: it starts small, yes, but it can use that small start to grow rapidly until it might as well have been tainted from the start. That's how it tends to work in reality: starts small, eventually becomes too big.

  25. TRT Silver badge

    This stinks.

    Stinks to high heaven. Corruption, that's what it is. Pure corruption.

    And greed. Greed and corruption.

  26. DarkRud

    Only IP?

    Sooner or later, domain name information will change to pure IP denominations. It's nice if you still have exclusive IP4 addresses - stupid if you have several domains on one IP.

  27. Milton Silver badge

    Greed is gooood

    Except of course, greed is not and never has been "good".

    Everywhere you look throughout the whole of human history, you see that greed is destructive. Ultimately it is self-destructive of its practitioners, but before that point, so much damage is done to so many people. Whether it's greed for power or greed for treasure, the human race may not survive unless it finds a way to inoculate itself against this mental and emotional scourge.

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Greed is gooood

      Indeed.

      One of the ideas behind western capitalism is the recognition of this fact, and to mitigate it by performing a bit of jiu-jitsu so that the greedy option is also the least damaging, most beneficial to the public actions.

      I think the track record on this is spotty at best.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Greed is gooood

        I think what we've learned is that true cheating is like yoga: it can twist and contort itself to fit any purpose. This defeats capitalist jiu-jitsu by being able to twist like a snake and and up twisting capitalism with it, with a side of deluding the exhausted public along the way (recently read a web comic called "The One Rich Guy" and I'm told some of the blurbs in it were actually spoken).

  28. teknopaul Silver badge

    domain name swapping

    Search engines should introduce a feature to domain name map from a .org to any other address at the request of the current domain owner so that everyone can migrate off .org asap.

    It no longer represents a non-profit organisation so having .org no longer has value.

    DNS registries could support the same feature for MX forwarding.

    DNS over HTTPS can do the same thing.

    They should make the mapping permanent, or for a very long time, so that the old .org domain that is no longer being paid for, is essentially worthless to any new customer.

    Could then add migrated domains to blacklists that search engines maintain so these crooks cant even sell the .orgs to domain squatters.

  29. John Tserkezis

    Oh Crap

    That is all.

  30. Bernard

    Much more important than the question of who the buyer is

    Is the question of who profited from the sale.

    The fact that it's worth buying means that more revenue can be squeezed from it. Private equity motives are transparent and, for better or worse, part of the free market economy.

    The private sale of assets which have presented themselves as public or quasi-public is a very different thing. It's what enriched the Russian oligarchs and the relations of corrupt regimes the world over.

    If the proceeds go into some other not-for-profit research and development to further the goals the .org org started, then there may be an argument to be had.

    Assuming private citizens pocketed the profits of a public sale, they should be hunted down and investigated for corruption.

  31. DerekCurrie
    Devil

    Corporatocracy + Idiocracy = Insanitocracy

    Lunatics with money to burn in pursuit of further lunacy. <-The future hates you.

  32. JacobMalthouse

    24 nonprofits have launched a letter writing campaign in opposition to the sale.

    You can read the letter and sign up to voice your concerns at:

    www.savedotorg.org

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can think of a certain .org site that has been quite a thorn in a certain industry's side that originally used .org before doing some domain hopping for a while before going back to .org again.

    It really wouldn't surprise me if this site would now disappear when .org is sold to a for-profit company.

  34. kathygump

    All Hail! "The Public Interest is dead. Long live the Public Interest."

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