back to article Internet Society CEO: Most people don't care about the .org sell-off – and nothing short of a court order will stop it

El Reg has quizzed Andrew Sullivan, the president and CEO of the Internet Society (ISOC), about his organistion's decision to sell the non-profit .org registry to private equity outfit Ethos Capital. We have previously covered the controversy over the proposed sale, the continued failure of ISOC and DNS overseer ICANN to …

  1. Sulky

    Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

    If you are going to sell something off with 10 million customers of which 80% renew then selling it in a closed negotiation is patently stupid. If they wanted a lump sum they could have easily issued a bond given the size of the revenue and still retained ownership. Fuckwits.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

      Maximized the value for who? Will the board suddenly get a very large bonus from this? Something just doesn't feel right here....

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

        "Will the board suddenly get a very large bonus...?"

        No. If you read the ISOC's Articles of Incorporation, you'll see why not. It's a non-profit and the Board members aren't paid a cent.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

          "Board members aren't paid a cent" not in a way anyone can legally challenge.

          The questions should really be "should a entity that grew it's market from being "not for profit" be allowed to change it's stripes without paying back the taxes avoided and good faith donations they took to grow the market in the first place"

          See this sort of thing before with building societys becoming banks in the UK where they buy the right to vote and then sell it off to the competition once board members get a guaranteed cut and a paying position.

          You only have to look at the UK banking system since building societies disappeared to know the outcome

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

          The bonus could come in the form of a non exec directorship on the vultures board. So not necessarily a no. There are links already in place between the two.

        3. OldSoCalCoder

          Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

          Taken directly from Mr McCarthy's article written Nov 20 2019

          "Former ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade personally registered the domain name currently used by Ethos Capital in May and it was registered as a limited company in the US state of Delaware on May 14. That date is significant because it is one day after ICANN indicated it was planning to approve the lifting of price caps through its public comment summary.

          As such it appears that the plan to purchase the .org registry was predicated on the price caps going ahead and that those behind the deal had intricate knowledge of ICANN’s internal processes."

          So someone's getting rich off of this, and the process involved 'inside information', a financial transaction based on information not known to the public beforehand. Isn't that illegal in the U.S.?

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

            "a financial transaction based on information not known to the public beforehand. Isn't that illegal in the U.S.?"

            It's not illegal unless the company is publicly traded.

        4. Poncey McPonceface

          Re: Because an open and transparent auction wouldn't have maximised the value at all!

          Well done! I've never seen someone get so many downvotes for so many consecutive posts on this site and I've been here on and off for over a decade.

  2. oiseau Silver badge
    Flame

    Self serving SOB

    "We didn't go looking for this. If we had done that [consulted publicly about the sale .org], the opportunity would have been lost. If we had done it in public, it would have created a lot of uncertainty without any benefit."

    Really?

    You don't say ...

    It's was quite obvious from the start that they did not go looking for this as the main purpose of carrying this out and doing it in the way they have been doing it was to do it in the shade/under the blankets/away from public scrutiny.

    Uncertainty?

    Not so ...

    By now I am certain that this DH and those backing this scheme are nothing but run of the mill investment fund raiders that found a way to make some easy money creating an oportunity and then finding a loophole to exploit it.

    Without any benefit?

    Not so either ...

    Obviously the chap is talking about the benefit of those backing this outrageous deal which is long them and huge and not about society's benefit as a whole in that this rip-off does not go through.

    In my experience, when this type of thing goes down it for the benefit of a few at the expense of the many.

    O.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self serving SOB

      "If we had done that [consulted publicly about the sale .org], the opportunity would have been lost."

      That's true about most bribery schemes too.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Self serving SOB

      ISOC didn't go looking for a buyer and they obviously couldn't discuss the deal in public before the handshake, as for any other negotiated deal. If you bought or sold a house in your life, did you place a newspaper article about the price negotiation?

      The ISOC CEO is salaried, of course, but the Board isn't and there are no shares.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Self serving SOB

        The ISOC CEO is salaried, of course, but the Board isn't and there are no shares.

        I'm sure renumeration was crucial to the CEO's decision. But remind me. How did ISOC come to control .org in the first place?

        If you bought or sold a house in your life, did you place a newspaper article about the price negotiation?

        Generally you'll find the seller markets their house, evaluates bids and typically accepts the highest offer.. Along with boring little details like getting valuations.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Self serving SOB

        "If you bought or sold a house in your life, did you place a newspaper article about the price negotiation?"

        No, but you generally do publicly advertise the fact the house is for sale and the initial asking price. You'd also mention that there are sitting tenants and those tenants would normally be informed of the intention to sell.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self serving SOB

        Isn't the ISOC supposed to be managing this as trustees rather than owners? The analogy of the house falls apart completely because trustees don't privately sell off assets of the trust without review.

        Not that the house analogy stands anyway - the "small" matter that the house seller only considered 1 bid and "negotiatiated", the terms of which are secret, an exchange made amongst individuals with conflicts of interest.

        Yeah just another house sale with the seller looking for the "best" price in an "open" market of exactly one buyer and one offer...

        You are either part of the scam or hopelessly gullible.

      4. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Self serving SOB

        "If you bought or sold a house in your life, did you place a newspaper article about the price negotiation?"

        Nope, because the general public is not a stakeholder in that sort of deal. However, the .org registry is different -- there are a ton of stakeholders, and they should have been informed.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Most people don't care one way or another.

    and this is a prevailing business ethos: we don't care about anything but our margin, and most people don't care one way or another. At least he's honest about it (which doesn't make him any less odious).

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

      Perhaps some people may care one way or the other if they are given the facts and asked if they care, I am certain those clients who have renewable .orgs will be interested in any effects regarding their future.

    2. JohnGrantNineTiles

      Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

      .. and most people have lives to live and will focus on that so not notice until it's too late.

    3. DJV Silver badge

      Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

      I own a .org domain for the non-profit writing group that I help run. If the domain price goes up stupidly then I will convert it to some other TLD or ditch the website altogether. So, the SOB won't get my money either way.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge

        Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

        Exactly. The fact is that the US Govt created a competitive free market in top-level domain registrations in 1998 and we've lived with it ever since. In the big scheme of things, this sale is a tiny detail.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

          What free market - this is a private sell off, with no competitive forces.

          Just because you write the words doesnt make it true...

          Small or big does not matter - this is criminal cartel behaviour by cronies. Nothing here is happening on any merit - other than exploiting a situation where everyone was civil.

        2. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

          "The fact is that the US Govt created a competitive free market in top-level domain registrations in 1998 and we've lived with it ever since."

          It did? Where is this competitive free market, then?

      2. ElectricPics

        Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

        Likewise. In fact I might even buy the new domain now and redirect from the .org as we don't have any printed stationery with the URL on it.

      3. whitepines Silver badge

        Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

        If the domain price goes up stupidly then I will convert it to some other TLD

        And when you give up the .org, and a squatter puts "Donate to MyFooCharityCorp* NOW!", or "Did you know MyFooCharityOrg is a SCAM?" on it, what exactly will you do?

        * Assuming real org is MyFooCharityOrg or similar

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

          Shrug. Domain squatting is already a fact of life. I don't see it as a compelling reason to let Sullivan and Chehade jerk me around, and I imagine neither do the other people discontinuing the use of .org.

      4. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Most people don't care one way or another.

        I own a .org, and I will not be renewing it. I don't want to provide even the smallest support to Chehade.

        I won't be supporting ISOC either, though to be honest I haven't in the past (other than by paying for a .org); their mission is well down my priority list.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    utter bellend

    like most greedy twats, utter bellend

    does he happen to be related to Booris or Trumpy boy?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: utter bellend

      ... happen to be related to Booris or Trumpy boy?

      I think you may be on to something there.

      Looks like one, talks like one, acts like one.

      Yes, this one must also be an asshole.

      Anon.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    What a load of bull

    If you had gone public with the offer you would have been doing your job as a steward.

    You are making the mistake of believing that .org was yours to manage as you see fit. That is patently wrong. You are the overseer, your job is to manage things to the best interests of the community, not of your fucking business pals.

    Also, if there are only a paltry ten million subscribers, you mind telling us why the package is evaluated at a billion dollars ?

    And, cherry on the cake : "Most people looking for a domain name get it through a company that is overwhelmingly commercial". Well duh, what non-commercial outfit is there that proposes domain names ? What kind of effin' justification is that ? Most food I get is through commercial outlets, that doesn't mean I'm okay with slave wages.

    Asshole.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: What a load of bull

      You appear to believe in magic. All a registrar does is maintain a list of names. "Stewardship" seems to contain some moral content but there isn't any: it's only a list of names. If you don't like the charge for keeping "myvanityname.org" on a list, go and get it for less money as "myvanityname.co" (which was the cheapest on offer when I looked a couple of days ago).

      So yes, a load of bull.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What a load of bull

        Tell that to the Land Registry who keeps maintains the list of who owns your home and land.

        They sell your title deed on and then tell you to just fucking move somewhere else if you can't pay the new fees to remain the owner of your land...

        Yeah you are the one tossing a lot of bull out of all orifices...

  6. Mephistro Silver badge
    Flame

    Depressing, ...

    ... amoral, greedy, dodgy, corrupt!

    End result: several millions of non-profits -many of them very small and already struggling to pay the bills- will see their internet related costs going through the roof, so Sullivan and his rich corporate pals can get even wealthier.

    I ***hope*** they get that court order, and also that Mr. Sullivan loses his job. Because of ethics and basic human decency.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Depressing, ...

      Many of these smallish outfits probably don't have such a big Internet presence. These are probably the ones where it's easiest for them to relocate to a new TLD. I mean, what will they have to do apart from some cosmetic changes to change their address graphics?

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Depressing, ...

        "...what will they have to do apart from some cosmetic changes..."

        Reprint/remake ads, brochures, merchandising, forms and stationery, for starters. If their web presence includes a page for processing donations or one for selling merchandise or local products from the countries where they work, the modifications won't be exactly cheap either. And let's not forget changing their e-mail accounts.

        Another issue is that their old domains might be acquired by scammers, which could cause the prestige of said NGOs to suffer significantly and the donations they receive to drop.

        There is also the fact that if a private fund wants to pay one billion $$$ for administering these domains it is because they expect to recoup that amount in a short time, and from that point on, most of what they charge will be earnings.

        Remember, we're discussing a private equity fund here. Compared with them, piranhas look nice an cuddly!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Depressing, ...

          "Reprint/remake ads, brochures, merchandising, forms and stationery, for starters. If their web presence includes a page for processing donations or one for selling merchandise or local products from the countries where they work, the modifications won't be exactly cheap either. And let's not forget changing their e-mail accounts."

          Would it REALLY hurt them that much to, say, take a hit for one year to engage in the transition between TLDs? Keeping control of the old domain for that year should allow time to tell people, "HEYO! We're moving!" I mean, look what happens when these organizations have to move physical addresses, maybe move cities and thus out of the area code and forced to get a new telephone number and so on. What's so different between moving Internet addresses and moving physical addresses?

          1. DavCrav Silver badge

            Re: Depressing, ...

            "Would it REALLY hurt them that much to, say, take a hit for one year to engage in the transition between TLDs?"

            The fact that it's very annoying, and would only bankrupt a few charities to move, is not really a good excuse. This is a largely captive market and you can bump the cost from $10/year to $100/year. I reckon half of the 10m organizations would swear at you and accept it as a cost of doing business, and you are on revenues of $500m/year now. All at the expense of non-profit organizations, in the finest tradition of pond-scum businessmen.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Depressing, ...

            because it's like an eviction off your own home.. for no reason other than someone's greed.

            There is no value add, no improvement, no benefit.

            1. jospanner

              Re: Depressing, ...

              Welcome to capitalism.

              This is what you all wanted, right?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Depressing, ...

                Exploitation isn't protected by any economic model.

                Capitalism,socialism communism all have had this.

                These are just selfish cockroaches.

                No worse actually coz cockroaches at least eat waste.

              2. LeofromChicago

                Re: Depressing, ...

                Welcome to crony capitalism.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Depressing, ...

              "because it's like an eviction off your own home.. for no reason other than someone's greed."

              They get outbid for their lease. Tough. Happens all the time. C'est la vie.. I've seen plenty of local business go under under those exact circumstances. My favorite Chinese restaurant went under because someone made an outright offer for the land, tearing the whole building down (a former Burger King--they had moved two blocks over) to build their own. My favorite secondhand store is down to one branch in my area because the other branches refused to renew due to increased lease rates. A jeweler as well as a controversial clinic were both forced to relocate because someone outright bought the land on which the building from which their suites were leased stood and decided to tear it down.

              Like everything else, contingency planning is an increasing necessity in life.

          3. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Depressing, ...

            "Would it REALLY hurt them that much to, say, take a hit for one year to engage in the transition between TLDs?"

            I've worked with and for a number of nonprofits over the decades, and for most of them, yes, this would be a huge financial problem.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Depressing, ...

              If three to four figures for one year constitutes a financial crisis for them, frankly, they have bigger problems (like trying to renegotiate their lease when it comes time to renew).

        2. LeofromChicago

          Re: Depressing, ...

          Exactly! And soon it'll be your web address -- your web address!!! -- being awarded to the highest bidder. It's your fault you can't pay for it! That's how the world of 'private equity' works. NotMyWWW !!!

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Depressing, ...

      Oh yes, an increase on a fee of $10 a year in a highly competitive market will really screw Médecins Sans Frontières.

      Yes, this discussion is depressing. Engage brain and think.

      1. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: Depressing, ...

        "...an increase on a fee of $10..."

        Please re-read the article, specially the part about the price caps being removed.

        And now let's make some numbers:

        Ten million .org domains, "sold" for one beellion $$$. To save you the calculations, Ethos is valuating every one of these domains at $100.

        Ethos Capital* has to recover that investment as soon as possible and, afterwards, extract as much money from the domain's owners as they can, because, you know, "yadda yadda creating value for our shareholders yadda yadda".

        The obvious way to do this is to raise prices abruptly in, say, $30 or $50 per year, and they will be able to do this because, for the small ngos, it'll be far cheaper and less risky to "pay the man" than paying all the costs incurred by shifting domains.

        "...will really screw Médecins Sans Frontières."

        No, it won't. I specifically wrote "...very small and already struggling to pay the bills" in my comment. For MSF and other big NGOs this will be less than a rounding error in their numbers.

        A few of my clients are small non-profits using the .org TLD and often I just don't charge them, or bill them only a fraction of the work done. Hint: They definitely aren't raking it in!

        This is a cross between a land grab and a protection scheme and looks like something from "The Sopranos" or "The Wire".

        Engage brain and think

        Follow your own advice yourself.

        Note*: Definitely NOT an ngo!

        1. Martin M

          Idiots

          The mean domain valuation may be $100, but the effective valuation of domains that are actively being used for something important will be far higher.

          Many domains will not be renewed if prices are ramped significantly. Domain speculation will abruptly become uneconomic (increased costs/no-one wants to buy a new .org any more and be subject to rampant monopoly rent extraction) and domains brought for brand protection purposes will be dropped. As a pure guess that might easily be 90% of all domains.

          Those who stay are going to have to pay *a lot*. Which they will, as switching costs and risks are high. Would a charity's IT Director really take a decision that might pay off for their successor 10 years down the line, while incurring all of the costs and risks on their watch?

          I'm sure the private equity company's economists will have a model for exactly how to price to squeeze the most out for them. But for example if it costs a largish organisation £150k to switch, they can probably be charged £15k a year for a domain name. The higher price (assuming you have to have only one price) would force switches by or in the extreme bankruptcies of organisations on the margin, but pricing optimisations in these situations tend to result in very high numbers and many fewer customers.

          It may not break the bank for the likes of MSF but that doesn't stop it being truly offensive. That £15k might have saved a lot of lives. And those who are forced to switch are forced to bear additional risks and costs. Meanwhile, the private equity company makes off with their risk-free loot.

          1. jospanner

            Re: Idiots

            Yeah but, this is capitalism. Private ownership of the means of production, which includes tools, which includes domain names.

            The point is to pay people for owning stuff and to reward people for taking that money and using it to own more stuff.

            Isn't this what you all wanted?

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Idiots

              "Isn't this what you all wanted?"

              You keep saying that, but you aren't saying who you mean by "you all".

      2. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Depressing, ...

        So if it's $100/year now, then $90/year is missing from MSF's accounts. Which couple of children die from not being vaccinated?

      3. N2 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Depressing, ...

        Engage brain and think

        Clearly you omitted those steps.

  7. sbt Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I haven't seen an interviewee so clueless and out-of-touch since ...

    ... well, OK, it was last week on Newsnight.

  8. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Vanilla TLD WANTED

    Not valuing [ nor seeing the point of different ] TLDs, I've always stuck to .COM --- and hired the main duplicates to avoid 'confusion'. Such as mouseling.COM - with redirects from mouseling.ORG, mouseling.NET and mouseling.EDU --- I strictly ignored the 'silly' TLDs such as .TV .INFO and .CO.UK ( which one never seemed to make sense , why not just .UK from the start ? ) as much as I do the websites that use them.

    However it has been pointed out that having a .COM brings one under American jurisdiction; so any suggestions on the very best, most standard, neutral TLD to settle on, independent of various noisome national control ?

    Has to be generally recognised of course...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

      You won't find one. The TLDs have to register somewhere, and that somewhere's going to exert sovereign control over the TLD and the organization that manages it. For example, .com and .net fall under US jurisdiction because they're controlled by Verisign, a US company. Pick a place, there's bound to be conditions (think of Flags of Convenience versus Port State Control).

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

        Thanks. Thing is to avoid the main villains such as China, America or Russia [ and the 14 eyes countries who prolly act as base creatures of their bosses ]; yet the tiny countries --- such as Liechtenstein ( for which I have liking as where the heiress to my king resides ) .LI or Luxembourg .LU --- may not be recognised.

        And it would be invidious to choose between the 3 delightful Baltics...

        1. Cavehomme_

          Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

          .ch Confederation Helvetia

          .is Iceland

          .io British Indian Ocean Territory

          .pm Saint Pierre and Miquelon

          They are pretty neutral and decent profile, especially the first one, with good privacy laws too.

          1. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

            Thanks/

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

              ..bear in mind that some TLD, especially CCTLDs might have residency restrictions or similar on who can purchase them.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

            Isn’t the future of .io in doubt? The population of the islands were expelled by the UK government in the 1960s and are (quite rightly) trying to return, and now have a ruling from the International Court of Justice that administration of the islands should transfer to Mauritius, at which point it’ll presumably cease to qualify for a country-code domain.

            1. Wicked Witch

              Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

              Isn't ICANN's rule still the same as the one Postel came up with: use the same list as the IPU's country codes and assign responsibility to whichever government is responsible for the post office the IPU has assigned that code to. For the most part they use the de facto government of the territory regardless of any potentially legitimate governments in exile.

              Formerly valid CCs have typically been kept and assigned to principal successor states, so .su was handed over to Russia, rather than the last soviet republic.

          3. forumusernamealreadytaken

            Re: Vanilla TLD WANTED

            .io British Indian Ocean Territory

            The (erstwhile) denizens of the Chagos Islands might disagree ?

  9. Hstubbe

    "Nothing about the sale would change or impact ISOC's mission, he argues, but it would provide it with the resources to do a lot more and provide a more stable and diversified source of income."

    I guess he's going to need that diversified source of income. I, for one, will not renew my paid membership to these sell-outs.

    1. Warm Braw Silver badge

      I was around at the conference where ISOC was launched. It was cast as a grassroots organisation in response to the growing concerns at the time that control of the Internet, which had been hitherto in the hands largely of engineers, was being ceded to business and governments. It wasn't really a credible pitch at the time: the figureheads may have been worthy, but not exactly obvious populists. I think my membership lasted one year: it seemed to me that it was more about legitimising the existing hierarchy than any genuine attempt to democratise participation.

      This latest event does not surprise me in the least.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        I agree. I was optimistic about ISOC when it first launched, but it's clear that ISOC is working toward the exact opposite of what they claimed they were working for.

  10. TRT Silver badge

    Hey, boss!

    I could always change our .org to .science?

    How much?

    £25 a year at the moment.

    How much to we pay now?

    £12 a year.

    .FO

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. ATeal

      Re: Domain name market?

      I should perhaps emphasise my point: you /cannot/ easily change domain name and at some point there is only one .whatever provider right? Even if people resell through it (as is quite common) - that bumps the price of switching vastly up, if they were to charge $100k per year to a tiny .org that does something useful, then rational economics says "the cost of switching is less than the cost of staying".

      Anyone with a .org is at the mercy of the core .org registry (+ any resellers that put extra on that).

      The long list was to show "look at all these .orgs that will result in broken links if they change"

    2. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Domain name market?

      Going in the opposite direction, I would certainly use .KDE...

      1. ATeal

        Re: Domain name market?

        Silly, don't assume it'll be a reasonable price! Or that there's any chance of KDE getting it, or that there are not other KDEs that'll fight tooth and nail for it.

  12. Al fazed
    Devil

    I was under the assumption

    I was under the assumption that businesses registered in the UK which have been incorporated as "Not for Profit", there are still a couple of formats like "a Company Limited by Guarantee", "Community Benevolent Society", "Charitable Incorpoarate Company" etc. In the Rules or Articles of Association it must contain a locking clause which is intended to prevent the distribution of assets, other for the original intended purpose. This is usually accomplished by transfer of assets to an organisation with similar Aims and Objectives of not for profit.

    So Twat happened here ? I am hastened to ask.

    Is there no fucking oversight now at Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority ?

    OMG

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: I was under the assumption

      Is there no fucking oversight now at Companies House or the Financial Conduct Authority ?

      Or even the Charities Commission. But that's all UK regulation, and the entities involved are US, where different rules apply. So I think a 501(c)(3) corporation divesting 'non-core' assets in exchange for a large pile of cash.

      So whilst being unethical AF, it's potentially legal. For all the talk about 'stakeholders', the only ones that matter are those listed on the 990 as executives. If they've all agreed this deal, then absent any legal challenge, it's probably a done deal. Where I think that could work is with a self-dealing challenge, but even that may not apply unless it could be proved that current execs at the entities involved will personally benefit from the decision. Currently they could argue, like Sullivan is that the deal benefits ISOC and allows it to focus on it's charitable objectives.. And ignore the loss of ongoing revenue and the insiders who'll benefit from those.

      It really needs a US lawyers view as to the legality of the situation though, and what the next steps could be.. especially as the real 'stakeholders' are supporting the transaction.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: I was under the assumption

        I'm not a lawyer, so take this with the possibility that I could be incorrect, but I believe U.S. law mostly draws the line at end goals, but does not interfere very much with the means. Therefore, if a supposedly nonprofit organization decides to sell something they manage, but they use the proceeds for something allowed under nonprofit legislation and the organization's charter, then it's acceptable. If they just did it to increase salaries until the accounts are empty, that would put their position in check. Either way, by the time someone finds out if consequences can happen to these people, the damage will have been done to .org. If we are to prevent it, we will need to focus on legal challenges, and in my opinion ICANN is the most likely successful target for that at the moment.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: I was under the assumption

          Agreed. The other possibility is regulatory challenges.. But that begs the question 'Who regulates?', which has always been a challenge with the Internet's traditional self-governance. Currently a lot of that control sits with ICANN/ISOC, who are showing very questionable judgement. Looking at it in simple business terms, Ethos has no experience, track record etc that could and should be used for due diligence. Neither of the identifiable staff have any track record in running a registry and there are huge reputational risks in handing this over to an unknown. It lacks even basic stuff, like supplying last 3-5yrs audited accounts, although it can be managed by looking at the ownership structure/funding guarantees. As it stands though, based on Ethos's public information, they don't seem fit to run .org.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pertinent quote from Douglas Adams' HHGG series...

    It has been said that Vogons are not above a little bribery and corruption in the same way that the sea is not above the clouds, and this was certainly true in his case. When he heard the words "integrity" or "moral rectitude" he reached for his dictionary, and when he heard the chink of ready money in large quantities he reached for the rule book and threw it away.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My inner feelings about this.

    Fuck ISOC.

  15. nil0

    Again...

    ...profit/non-profit thing aside, how come increasing the price by "only" 10% (that's four or five times the current rate of inflation) every single year counts as a generous, benevolent move anyway?

    1. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Again...

      It doesn't, except in the "they're a good guy for not punching me even harder" sense.

  16. keb

    probe ISOC directors' assets

    before and after the sale to check for bribery.

    This should be done for all boards of public entities randomly and periodically.

    1. JimC

      Re: probe ISOC directors' assets

      My dear chap, why would they need to be bribed when they can award themselves huge bonuses for facilitating the sale?

      Under the new form of capitalism, where the real owners are almost powerless, and all the power is in the hands of executives who endlessly inflate each other's salaries there's little need for that sort of bribery. The executives get just as rich:

      Thou shalt not steal/an empty feat/when its so lucrative to cheat

      1. Mephistro Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: probe ISOC directors' assets

        Nice haiku!

        Mmhhh...

        ...almost?

  17. LeahroyNake Silver badge

    Feck em

    I carry out IT work for several charities that have .org domains. Mostly because I am nice and try to keep their very favorable hourly rates (£10 ph vs the usual £75) to a minimum, also because I believe they genuinely provide valuable services to disadvantaged people and don't take the piss... I have stopped working for some that have grown too big and think paying their top dog £100k plus a year is acceptable for what they do, if they can afford that they can go somewhere that doesn't give a crap and come crying back to me when their funding drys up.

    I just wish there was an alternative to the current corporate controlled DNS. Until then soft fekkers like me will have to just do our best and advise our customers on the least evil path forward.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Feck em

      Indeed .org is the cheapest sensible TLD there is, I think, except .org.uk

      All the others are behaving like private license plate. I saw one up for sale, a derivative version from the domain name I as looking for, up for £23,000, and it wasn't anything particularly special either.

  18. edris90

    Well there goes the neighborhood. Everything that is privatized can be considered lost to general humanity. regards and there's no way to access it without empowering those who are holding it hostage, which will use that additional power 2 maintain their hold.

    humans weren't so damn impatient we can just cut them off from interaction until they failed on their own. Allowing the public to reclaim general access to those resources.

    Bu modern people lack the necessary holistic perception and to follow through to successfully undertake campaign of direct action and so the world just got a little bit worse and and a bit more desperate

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm always down for a bit of propaganda-of-the-deed related vigilanteism.

      Allegedly.

  19. martinusher Silver badge

    Spare a thought for the struggling Private Equity companies.....

    These funds are amassing cash at a fantastic clip but they're stuck with things to do with it for as you know money is worthless if it can't be put to work making more money. So they're stuck raiding the metaphorical 'anti-sofa' -- they're not looking for loose change but things to buy with it. Housing to rent? Check. Doctor's practices? Check. They're running out of things and ideas so buying naming rights to domains is really them scraping the bottom of the barrel, its going to take at least a year or two to be able to squeeze that particular lemon dry.

    PE firms haven't figured out how to purchase souls. Yet.

    1. -tim
      Devil

      Re: Spare a thought for the struggling Private Equity companies.....

      I think they did figure out how to buy souls. Nearly every retirement fund in the world is now competing with these poor struggling Private Equity firms and many of the retirement funds are constrained in just what they can buy with their money. Two decades ago one of the larger US funds had about a billion a week (and 4 times that once a month) that was to be invested in "high tech" but there just wasn't enough shares to go around so the stock price of the tech companies went to insane levels and everyone was happy to watch the pyramid scheme until the bubble burst. A few friends noticed that at the end of their weekly investment cycle the retirement funds would buy things that weren't such a good deal but we couldn't predict which well enough to make use of it.

      When the retirement funds have to start pullout cash over the next decade, I expect the Private Equity firms will be there with deals implying that the retirees have already sold their souls.

    2. jospanner

      Re: Spare a thought for the struggling Private Equity companies.....

      And yet people will still fight tooth-and-nail to defend capitalism, as it literally buys your life right out from under you.

    3. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Spare a thought for the struggling Private Equity companies.....

      These funds are amassing cash at a fantastic clip but they're stuck with things to do with it for as you know money is worthless if it can't be put to work making more money.

      Indeed ...

      This latest indignity is only one of the many consequences of that.

      Originated in the globalization of capital markets it has been many years since it became a very severe worldwide issue which has (surely) been recongnised as such by many governments but, as usual, they have all hesitated/failed to even try to put a stop to it.

      ie. via progressive tax scales.

      Because ...

      Well, you can't annoy the party donors, right?

      The longer governments take to react, the harder it will be to reign in these scumbags.

      The time will come when it will be too late, far too late.

      And then, blood will be shed.

      Again.

      How can you possibly govern in a world where private equity funds representing less than 0.1% of the world population can purchase or own anything anywhere within their reach and generate untaxed profits that evolve exponentially and can rival a small/medium country?

      eg: do you know how much Google+Amazon+Apple+Facebook+Twitter (just to name a few of the most notorious) make last year and how much tax they paid on that profit?

      We are in very deep shit and it is getting worse by the minute.

      Think of that when you vote in the next election.

      O.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Spare a thought for the struggling Private Equity companies.....

        "Think of that when you vote in the next election."

        What's there to think about EVERY candidate on the ballot will want their say in which door they screw you: front, back, or attic? Otherwise, they wouldn't be on the ballot. We're already at the One Rich Guy stage, or close enough that unless you can become The One RichER guy (kind of impossible as the One Rich Guy has everything unless you can break the laws of physics), you're just plain outvoted.

        We're seeing the endgame of the human condition: humans will cheat to win, to the point of cheating the anti-cheaters if necessary. What can you do when the least-evil option is still TOO evil?

  20. -tim
    Facepalm

    ROI?

    A revision from my last attempt at this...

    So a billion dollars for about 10 million DNS records. The operation of that database should cost about $600,000 a year (figure $.06 cost per record which is high). Put another way, about $100 for every .org domain now needs to go to pay back the investment which is about $333 per non-squater. Figure in inflation and the price of the .org domains are going to go way up.

  21. Danny 2 Silver badge

    There is currently a general public perception that neutrals and charities end in dot Org and companies and brands end in dot Com. This ruins that. ISoc can walk the plank.

    I, for one, will testify that in 1989 I saw a legal stipulation by Tim Berners Lee that any commercial operation would have to pay CERN one cent for each use of inbound or outbound HTML ~ HTTP.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Can you find the actual document that stipulates this, as well as the means by which they'd be able to enforce this, especially across sovereign borders?

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        ICANN!

        https://www.w3.org/Policy.html

        The part that may have confused-

        The basic WWW code is in the Public Domain, the rest is covered by the conditions of distribution . In practice the interpretation of this in the case of the W3 project is that the programs are freely available to academic bodies of CERN member states and to the world-wide High-Energy Physics community. To commercial organizations who are not reselling it, but are using it to participate in global information exchange, the charge is generally waived in order to cut administrative costs. Code is of course shared freely with all collaborators. Commercial organizations wishing to sell software based on W3 code should contact CERN.

        So copyrighted code that could be licenced from CERN.. Which I think related to using CERN-server/client programs. But-

        The definition of protocols such as HTTP and data formats such as HTML are in the public domain and may be freely used by anyone.

        So software developed to use the base format/protocols was free to use and include in commercial alternatives, ie Apache, providing they didn't incorporate CERN's code. Any enforcement would then have been under normal copyright mechanisms. But the main reason HTML became a thing was the fact that like most other Internet protocols, it was 'open source' vs other markup & protocols around at the time.

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          "I, for one, will testify that in 1989 I saw a legal stipulation by Tim"

          This is, what we on the comedy circuit, call 'an obvious joke'.

          Humour evaporates when it has to be explained so I apologise to anyone not on the spectrum. The web was provided for free, and subsequent attempts to commercialise it or monetise it are so unjust that they should be resisted by all possible methods.

          1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Humour evaporates when it has to be explained so I apologise to anyone not on the spectrum. The web was provided for free, and subsequent attempts to commercialise it or monetise it are so unjust that they should be resisted by all possible methods.

            It's one of those Internet things. A bit like the decision by some to not capitalise the 'I'. But capitalising various bits of the 'net has always been a thing. RFCs might be public domain, but there can be patents behind them. One of the early 'great debates' was around that subject, which then spawned the whole open source movement to try and formalise public domain code. And of course the great SCO v IBM/Novell battle around *nix. It's one of those interesting policy debates, ie Universities provided a lot of the early toolset, eg BSD being Berkley's Unix and spawned a number of different licences. Which has been an interesting use of copyright, ie to permit free distribution rather than restrict it.

            But another bit of history was the decision to take .org from Verisign, or further back, Network Solutions who were paid by DISA/NSF to run the registry. And customers were charged $100/domain. Then came 'de-regulation', and handing responsibility to ICANN and a big reduction in domain name registration charges, helping spawn the registrar business.. And then Verisign bought NetSol, upset plenty of people, .org taken away and put out to a tender that I helped bid on for a losing client.. And part of that reason was the idea that .org should be non-profit.

            But such is the wild world of the 'net. Bits have been commercial pretty much since inception, and no doubt the mob behind the Ethos bid looked at how well Verisign did and wanted a slice of that pie. But the way it's happened stinks to high heaven.

            1. Danny 2 Silver badge

              I applaud your wisdom, and your wit - even when aimed my way.

              I just worry when I realise my nephew, dependent on the web socially and emotionally, who was born after "the great SCO v IBM/Novell battle" and he may never know about it unless we put up WWI-type monuments somewhere.

  22. FlippingGerman

    What a

    twat.

  23. david1024

    Paved Paradise

    And put up a parking lot.

  24. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    I predict

    that this is a big NOTHING BURGER

    the '.org' registry will continue, and the for-profit company will simply register things as the non-profit did, maybe even better, maybe not paying unnecessarily high administrative costs, etc..

    It might actually end up costing LESS to have a '.org'.

    And that's how I see it, actually...

    /me in wait and see mode

    (there is NOTHING WRONG with PROFIT)

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: I predict

      unnecessarily high administrative costs
      You mean like IT salaries? BTW, more profit for whom?

      Inequality Dot Org

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: I predict

      There's nothing wrong with profit when it's fairly earned.

      When telephone companies tried to use number-lock-in to hold onto customers, we got number portability laws. (in the EU and the US)

      There should be similar rules in this case.

      Or, the rest-of-the-world should just split the root and not run it as another of Americas cash cows.

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: I predict

        "Or, the rest-of-the-world should just split the root and not run it as another of Americas cash cows."

        I really think that this is inevitable. And necessary.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: I predict

          To clarify, I meant "American corporations cash cows" - if a split ocurs, we'd want our fellow Americans on board too - it wouldn't be a non-USA project.

          To extend to that, I'd add all dodgy registrars... Nominet for one with their .co.uk and .uk bollocks!

    3. EveryTime

      Re: I predict

      For those that missed it, "Nothing Burger" is a recent phrase meaning "Giant Fkking Deal (that we wish would go away)".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I predict

        Thing is, you've just triggered a version of the Streisand Effect. Now that you've made this "Nothing Burger," marketing people will be all over it, showing people who LOVE the "Nothing Burger" (because it doesn't make them get fat or whatever).

    4. RyokuMas Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: I predict

      Interesting... and upon what data do you base this prediction?

      ... or is this just how you feel about the situation? Because, as we all know, feelings are irrelevant and highly subjective...

    5. jospanner

      Re: I predict

      "(there is NOTHING WRONG with PROFIT)"

      Profit from sucking out other people's labour is pretty bloody abhorrent.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I predict

        You say it's abhorrent. They say c'est la vie. If you want them to change their tune, find a way to force their hand.

  25. Schultz

    savedotorg.org

    You can add your name to protest the sale -- probably won't stop the commercial interests behind this scheme but who knows...

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: savedotorg.org

      Signed yet resigned.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Most people don't care about the .org sell-off"...

    ...because they didn't know about it.

    None of the major news outlets reported on this because this isn't the kind of news the news agencies (Reuters et. al.) usually deal with.

    Real shame, because a single news tip to different outlets would probably made a difference.

  27. DeKrow
    Holmes

    Most people don't care whether Andrew Sullivan is alive or dead

    But that doesn't mean that murdering him is OK.

    … or does it?

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Most people don't care whether Andrew Sullivan is alive or dead

      I'd like to see a picture of him - I dont know why they chose a picture of Kenneth Branagh playing a paedophile instead.

      1. DeKrow

        Re: Most people don't care whether Andrew Sullivan is alive or dead

        It's a very similar look to the Minister he played in The Boat that Rocked...

  28. Robert Grant

    Most people looking for a domain name get it through a company that is overwhelmingly commercial.

    This is particularly cynical. Sure, they get it through a for-profit company such as GoDaddy or 123-Reg, but that's completely irrelevant.

  29. Red Right Hand

    And next on the list ladies and gentlemen is this rare item... The .net domain. Let's start the bidding at an easy 12 million dollars... Do I have 15?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ethos Capital investors

    One small detail - the large beast in the corner of the room, if you will, that is being conspicuously overlooked - is that Ethos Capital's investors (via funds) are:

    The Romney Family (as in Mitch)

    The Johnson Family (as in J & J)

    The Perot Family (as in Ross & son Tag)

    These aren't nice people. They're capitalists not known for honest dealings, or considering "the little people" in their business decisions.

    1. jospanner

      Re: Ethos Capital investors

      "These aren't nice people. They're capitalists not known for honest dealings, or considering "the little people" in their business decisions."

      So exactly the sort of behaviour that capitalism has always encouraged.

  31. a dreaming android

    Level playing field

    Disclaimer

    I do not work in IT but I do like reading and learning about this area of life.

    Is there any particular reason/s why the range of domain names are required ? In my naivete I used to think that .com indicated a business, until I encountered.biz, which just confused me.

    It isn't as if the net / www is a new thing we have had it in our lives for quite sometime. I don't need the .edu to tell me that the site is a Uni' or a School, in much the same I don't need .mil to indicate that I am on the site for RAF.

    Why we do we need these domain names ? can they not be done away with and just have .online for all. maybe have a tired price plan.

    There's almost certainly a good reason for things being this way, but I don't know what that is.

    Informative replies are welcome, am always happy to learn.

    1. The Mole

      Re: Level playing field

      There were two distinct groups of top level domain (TLD) originally.

      The country codes (.uk, .us, .de, .io etc) which are operated under license from respective country. These domains are great for sites with a specific geographic location and help avoid name clashes, and also give useful information to end users of where the content is targetted to. In some of those codes they were then subdivided into categories (.co.uk, .org.uk, .ac.uk etc) whilst others just allowed domains directly below them.

      Then there were the non-geographic domain names (.org, .gov, .com, .edu). These were principally designed for sites which didn't have a specific geographic location, but the US org tended to just use them anyway (everything is in america right?) hence .com becoming the dominant domain, and many US schools using .edu etc rather than the more correct co.us or ac.us if they had followed the UK scheme.

      There is no real technical reason why you need the additional subdivision - as can be seen in countries that didn't do it, however humans do like categorisation and by splitting up companies from charities or schools it does allow the names to be repeated in different contexts, and also quick and simple recognition of what the subject is likely to be before reading it. E.g. originally an email coming from a .co.uk is likely to be marketing, from .org.uk a donation request and .ac.uk something academic.

      More recently the industry have gone to the extreme of having lots of generic top level domain names (.bargains, .charity, .dating, .xyz). The only convincing argument for why these are a good thing is for those who wish to make money from them.. otherwise they just add confusion.

  32. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Flame

    The argument that if .org gets too expensive then people will move, and that the domain name market is competitive is complete and utter nonsense. If you're a non-profit relying on donations from people who aren't that Internet-savvy (which, realistically, is 99% of people on the Internet these days), you need to do as much as you possibly can to keep them coming. Changing your address means everyone who has bookmarked your old address sees a 404, it means that all your SEO work has to be done all over again, it means that every article that links to your website now has a broken link - in other words, it's probable suicide for any non-profit that's working flat out with little to no slack in its donation cycle.

    Realistically speaking then, the domain name market isn't competitive. Not only, I think, does he know this, he's also well aware that this is a deliberate, callous and utterly cynical attempt to exploit a captive audience for commercial gain. And worst of all, it seems he's fine with that.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Changing your address means everyone who has bookmarked your old address sees a 404, it means that all your SEO work has to be done all over again, it means that every article that links to your website now has a broken link - in other words, it's probable suicide for any non-profit that's working flat out with little to no slack in its donation cycle."

      And I'm assuming it's too much to ask for a one-time hit to keep both domains active to set up a "we've moved" page. And I'm assuming it's also too much to ask for enough time when you're forced to move due to an expired lease to put up a "We've moved" card on the old site?

  33. The BigYin

    Most people don't care about a great many things. I, for example, don't care about the habitat of the Lesser Crested Grebe Warbler because I don't know I should care, but that doesn't mean protecting it isn't a goo thing. (I made that species up just for illustrative purposes).

    Most people don't know how the Internet works,most people don't know they should care about the ".org" privatisation but that doesn't mean we shouldn't protect it.

    This whole line of argument is some weight variant of argumentum ad populum.

  34. JohnFen Silver badge

    Making ISOC look terrible

    Sullivan's explanations here confirm that ISOC really has become what it appears to have become. Not a good look.

    ""It's a market," he responds, noting that "PIR has always been a business from the get-go,""

    But perhaps it shouldn't be, or at least not the .org portion.

    ""We wouldn't do it [raise prices] because it would be bad for us," he says, making the argument that if prices go up too far, people will simply move to a different domain name."

    This response infuriated me. First, the "it would be bad for us" line is a variation on the old "don't worry, market forces will keep us in check" argument. That can be valid, but not when the market is effectively a monopoly.

    Also, plenty of organizations can't "simply move to a different domain name", and are over the barrel. Something that I think ISOC must be aware of and are probably counting on.

    I really do think that this is large step in the direction of the internet becoming less free and open.

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