Increased Calls for ICANN to Halt “.ORG” Sale as Sales Price Revealed

In a recent webinar, The Internet Society revealed that Ethos Capital is acquiring the .org registry for 1.135 billion US dollars. 

The Internet Society revealed that Ethos Capital is acquiring the .org registry for 1.135 billion US dollars.

Had the sale of the .org registry been a competitive process it likely would have sold for much more as the economic breakdown of the .org registry demonstrates considerable potential financial gain for Ethos Capital. 

The current price of a .org domain is approximately $10, which means $100 million per year for Ethos in revenue. But with the lifting of the price cap on .org domain names the domains could easily be doubled in price and lose very few registrations, which would immediately increase the yearly revenue for the .org registry to $200 million per year. That alone would mean that Ethos would make their money back in 7 years. 

However, Ethos has reported that they would “potentially” only raise prices 10% per year, more than what PIR (Public Internet Registry) has done in the past prior to the removal of the price caps. If we take Ethos at their word this would bring the price of a .org domain to about $25, bringing in approximately $250 million in revenue and $225 million in profit once we consider the current costs of running the registry of $25 million, which could greatly be reduced in time. 

Internet Freedom Battle Ahead?

AccessNow, a group that advocates for an open internet is leading the charge in calling on ICANN to block the sale, as the sale is bringing dire warnings of potential value-gouging as Ethos Capital is not bound to PIR’s promise not to raise domain prices by more than 10%. Even though Ethos has casually mentioned its commitment to do so. 

ICANN Has No Authority to Block Sale

The pressure is mounting for ICANN to block the sale of .org to Ethos Capital, as the sale requires the agencies formal approval. However, ICANN released a statement to the Financial Times that seemed to indicate that this was not its role. ICANN are quoted as saying, “does not have authority over the proposed acquisition” and that its only role is to assure that the .org domain continues operation. 

This implies that ICANN’s only authority is if the domain’s continuation is at risk and only under threat to the security and stability of the registry, would ICANN step in. 

From what we understand, ICANN is only accountable to itself and not to any governing body in the world. This makes it unclear if there will be any way to block the sale of the .org registry to Ethos Capital from any angle.

One thought on “Increased Calls for ICANN to Halt “.ORG” Sale as Sales Price Revealed

  • December 6, 2019 at 9:34 am

    Nice summary.
    The numbers I crunched accord with those in this article. Ethos Capital is sitting on a potential goldmine and bought in for an absolutely rock-bottom price.

    Unfortunately, icann is absolutely correct in their assertion that they have no authority to block the sale. It derives it’s powers through contractual agreements with relevant parties and the .org registry agreement does not preclude a change in ownership or business model for .org:

    The issue is that there has been a change in the principles behind the operation of .org. The space was always intended as a more community-focussed, non-commercial resource and recent developments potentially cause a shift in this fundamental principle.

    As a matter public policy and principle, it is really the remit of governments to assess what is in the best “public interest”. But govts have no direct authority in this arrangement and, if they were to agitate for and cause a retroactive revision of the rules for .org, icann would quickly find themselves in a US courtroom and likely on the losing side.

    Overall, this is likely to play out as a painful lesson in public and stakeholder expectations vs structural, legal and contractual reality.

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