Ethos Capital, a private equity firm, has revealed plans to purchase the company that owns each and every .org domain on the internet. In a move that could forever change how we use the internet, Ethos is expected to wrap up the incredible deal to become the new owner of the Public Interest Registry (PIR), by January 2020.
Non-Profits Are Afraid Of Ethos
The move has sent nonprofits, which are the major users of the .org domains, into a panic. Led by the National Council of Nonprofits, the nonprofits are rushing to prepare a petition calling for the deal to be blocked. So far, the petition against Ethos Capital has over 8000 signatures, and the number is expected to grow. The Girl Scouts of America, and the YMCA, are among the organizations that have endorsed the petition. There is an estimated 10 million .org domains on the internet. The petitioners have expressed their fears that if Ethos Capital goes ahead to purchase PIR, it could lead to an increase in domain prices, as well as censorship.
In an interview with CNN, Rick Cohen, an official at the National Council of Nonprofits, said that the concern is not only centered on the proposed purchase, but also on the expected removal of pricing caps. The pricing caps are put in place to shield nonprofits from oppressive prices on the .org domains. The Public Interest Registry was created in 2002 by the Internet Society. The Internet Society is a nonprofit organization that offers guidance in standards related to the internet, policy, access to the internet, and education. The PIR was formed with the aim of having a specialist organization with the role of managing all .org domains.
“Don’t Get Scared”
Eric Brooks, founder and CEO of the Internet Society, was however quick to point out that nonprofits should not be scared of the proposed changes. Speaking to CNN, Brooks said that the intention and motivation behind the expected deal with Ethos Capital is to grow and build the domain business for the benefit of all the concerned parties. The CEO added that while he completely understands the fears and doubts that the nonprofits have expressed, vested interests have hijacked the narrative behind the proposed deal.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that a for-profit company has been the owner of the .org domain. Between 1995 and 2003,Verisign was the custodian of the popular domain. Despite this history, the current deal has raised eyebrows because of the fact that Ethos Capital was only formed six months ago, making PIR one of the company’s first foray in investment.
Domains Will Get More Expensive
At the moment, the price of a single domain is approximately $10 per year. Reports say that should Ethos get the deal across the finish line, it plans to keep the domain easily accessible and fairly priced. Despite these assurances, however, the annual price for a single .org domain will still go up by an estimated 10% per year.
Although the deal is yet to be completed, it is only a matter of time. Only the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has the power to stop the sale from going through, but such a drastic step is highly unlikely.