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. 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?

    1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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

        "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

      Re: Insider trading?

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

  3. Barry Rueger

    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

      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."


      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...

  4. 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 (, 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

      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.


    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

        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

      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

        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

          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

            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

              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

              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.


      do you mean the good'ole internet will no more be ?


      scarcely (-:

      1. STOP_FORTH

        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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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...

  8. James Anderson

    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

        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

      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?

  9. 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.

  10. poohbear

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

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


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

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