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May 01, 2020

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Controversial .ORG Registry Sale Stopped In Its Tracks as ICANN Bows to Fierce Public Pressure 

ICANN has a long history of ignoring public sentiment. The organization that oversees the domain name system is famous (or I should say infamous) for their public comment periods that are allegedly aimed at gauging community support on various issues. Infamous because time after time, even when the public is overwhelmingly opposed, they simply ignore the comments and institute the unpopular policy anyhow. 

The charade has played out so many times over the years that few expected the result to be any different when ICANN queried the community on allowing ISOC to sell the Public Interest Registry, the administrator or .ORG, to a private equity company, Ethos Capital for $1.135 billion..and in fact, despite a firestorm of widespread public protest, ICANN appeared to be on the verge of doing just that. 

The wind suddenly shifted when California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra wrote ICANN a letter April 15 advising them to reject the deal. With ICANN headquartered in California, Becerra was in a position to hold ICANN's feet to the fire and they buckled late Thursday night (April 30), announcing they would not approve the sale to Ethos. Some think Ethos may now sue, but the immediate threat has been defused.



ICANN said many factors went into their decision - not just the threat from Becerra - but given how quickly his entrance into the fray had them doing a head-spinning 180 degree turn, there is a lot of skepticism about that. Opposition to the deal has been voiced from countless quarters for months now to what seemed to be no avail. As just one example, the Internet Commerce Association wrote a strong letter condemning the deal back in November 2019. 

In our own pages in March, domain industry pioneer Michael Castello (Castello Cities Internet Network) had this to say in an article titled Foxes in the Henhouse - "Many non-profit organizations built their charities over many years to engender trust within the .org sphere. How can ICANN, a “non-profit organization”, allow the .org universe to fall under private control with no true security for its protection into the future? What made the legacy extensions were the people. Now, these people have no rights to their virtual futures. This is akin to allowing the House of Representatives to fall under the control of a company like Amazon. What is next -- .net to Apple, .com to Google? Once that happens, our hope of individual freedoms in the virtual world will be all but gone."

I have often stated a personal fondness for the .org domain. It has a truly unique character and hard earned level of trust that has allowed it to stand out in a sea of meaningless extensions. It took months of hard fighting over rough terrain for the community to preserve that legacy (and this may not be the last battle of the war) but it was good to see community wishes prevail for a change - if that continues in other matters that come before ICANN, it will be a welcome change indeed.

(Posted May 1 2020)  

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