back to article As pressure builds over .org sell-off, internet governance bodies fall back into familiar pattern: Silence

One week after the news the non-profit .org internet registry was to be sold to a private equity firm, the board of the organization that has to approve the purchase met in private to discuss the situation. Four days after that organization – ICANN – met on November 21, it has yet to say a word about what it discussed or …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Any word who trousers the cash?

    Or what they are going to do with it?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

      Who trousers it will be Ethos's owners. Which is where the transparency (or lack thereof) matters. So Perot & Romney's VC funding structure. And as it'll be private, a small group will share the profits from the non-profits.

      Cerf misses the point-

      Cerf surprised many when he responded: “Hard to imagine that $60/year would be a deal breaker for even small non-profits.”

      Maybe so, but if there's 10 million+ .orgs, that's $600m a year. Under previous price caps of 10%, that'd grow $60m a year. With price caps lifted, that will obviously grow faster given the usual compounding problem that affects RPI+ style schemes.

      That stinks.

      Key issue to me is the cost of a .org bears little relation to the cost of running .org. That's essentially a website and a database with some APIs registrars can use to update. So tech costs are minimal and most of the R&D's done. There's not much need for sales or marketing given that's done by the registrars. There's not much need for physical infrastructure either given DNS is run by ICANN and registrar's DNS.. Which may be why ICANN's keen on the idea, ie how much they'll charge Ethos for access to the root servers. Running those doesn't cost that much either, ie cost of server + bandwidth, and bandwidth costs aren't that expensive given users shouldn't really be querying the root-servers directly.

      So given .org is a public good, and a natural monopoly, it should be regulated accordingly. Price controls might be unpopular in a 'free market', but there is no free market for .org. So regulators usually handle this by LRIC (Long Run Incremental Cost) models to base price increases on actual and projected costs.. Which is where RPI+ models also fail, ie RPI's based on a notional basket of consumer goods where price increase aren't relevant to the business getting the RPI+ bung.

      ICANN and ISOC will resist this vigorously given the profits at stake, and the potential for regulatory capture to take that pile of cash from them.. So either the FCC or FTC imposing price controls, or taking DNS away and putting it under the ITU. Challenge there is probably political, but ICANN and ISOC are showing they're acting against public interests & self-dealing, but who/how regulates a US based entity that's got a lot of global importance.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

        "the usual compounding problem that affects RPI+ style schemes"

        Look, I know everyone and their dog is plugging a RaspberryPi into everything these days but it's not that much of a problem is it?

        (It would probably have been worth defining you acronyms, especially when they overlap with one that your audience is already familiar with).

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

          Hey, we're UK (United* Kingdom) folks! So RPI= Retail Price Index, aka 'inflation'. Often abused, by redefining what's in the basket of goods used. But stuff like price increases for food & clothing have little impact on say, price of 'renewable energy'. Which is also part of the fun in the UK, so subsidies for 'renewables' rise by RPI, and energy costs make up a fair chunk of RPI, so it's kind of self-inflating and ends up screwing the public.

          (*OK, maybe not so United these days, but such is politics..)

          1. CliveS
            Thumb Down

            Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

            "RPI= Retail Price Index, aka 'inflation'"

            Not to be confused with CPI = Consumer Price Index aka 'inflation'. Or WPI = Wholesale Price Index aka 'inflation'. Perhaps its successor PPI = Producer Price Indices?

            CPI excludes housing costs and is a geometric mean rather than RPIs arithmetic mean. CPI also tends to be lower than RPI, which is why the government links payments to CPI and receipts to RPI to ensure that increases in what is pays out increases at a lower rate than what it takes in.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

              Except for pensions of senior politicians and civil servants, plus Bank of England directors and similar, which oddly are linked to RPI rather than CPI.

            2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

              Re: Any word who trousers the cash?

              Perhaps its successor PPI = Producer Price Indices?

              I think it'd be less confusing to consumers if it was just called 'Profit Percentage Increase'. Especially if costs are falling, but that's the joy of indexing contracts. So Ethos and/or a 10%+ allowable price increase. Make that say, 7% and say how wonderful you are by saving people 3%. Then award large pay rises and bonuses, and trebles all round!

              What is pretty much a certainty is consumers won't benefit, eg the UK's glorious energy 'market', where wholesale electricy prices have fall, yet bills keep rising. Indexing supplier rates just makes that a certainty, despite the existance of things like the 'Low Carbon Contracts Company', which is meant to let consumers share the profits. Oddly, that's never happened, or likely to happen. But such is the wonderful world of rent-seeking..

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh really?

    "Cerf surprised many when he responded: “Hard to imagine that $60/year would be a deal breaker for even small non-profits.”"

    I suggest you engage a few more brain cells, Mr Cerf. In the non-corrupt world, "non-profit' often means an organisation with very little income and a lot of unpaid volunteer effort.

    For such organisations, any increase in running costs could be quite harmful.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      In any case, it is now official : "revered internet figure Vint Cerf" has sold out and will be revered no more.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Indeed

        It is rather like reading Kernighan or Ritchie had an interview in which they suddenly decided that VAX or a descendent (Windows) is the better model of OS and came up with some spurious reasons for it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Indeed

          VAX is the hardware, VMS is the OS.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: Indeed

            And, of course, VMS was, and always will be, better than Unix.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Re: Indeed

              "VMS was, and always will be, better than Unix."

              Nah. Not even Ken Olsen could convince me of that.

        2. Rich 2 Silver badge

          Re: Indeed

          Windows is descended from VMS? That's a new one on me.

          1. mr-slappy

            Re: Indeed

            Not directly, but Dave Cutler was behind the development of VMS before leaving Digital to develop Windows NT.

            Some people believe this is why "VMS" + 1 = "WNT" (excuse my lax notation :-)

            1. el_oscuro

              Re: Indeed

              Kind of the opposite with "2001 A Space Odyssey":

              IBM -1 == HAL

          2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: Indeed

            There was a flaw in the way that Windows handled a certain operation that had a substantial effect on the development of the Athlon. That same flaw in VMS affected a processor developed for the VAX.

            Given that the same engineers were involved on both side, I'm going with "yes".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Indeed

        Remember that Vint Cerf is from the era that gave us the foundation of the internet - which had no security or privacy built in.

        He's not sold out, he's just the same blind optimist he always was. "These are good people, I know them, they wouldn't do anything nefarious."

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Indeed

          Vint Cerf put a stop to us attempting to build privacy and security into the early Internet. Seems that the .mil of the day told him that was a no-no for civilians.

      3. jake Silver badge

        Re: Indeed

        Cerf sold out ten years ago, when he accepted his pieces of silver from google.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Oh really?

      I'm not convinced that the fee is really a problem for those with an org domain (I have one and wouldn't want to pay it but moving would be a major inconvenience). Someone has problem done a breakdown of who owns which domain and decided that poor non-profits are a tiny percentage.

      This is really an example of rent-seeking where the price will be increased to point of highest return: "nice domain name you've got there, would be a pity if you couldn't keep it". It's not as if the costs of running a registry have increased recently, apart from the backhander for insiders to do this deal.

      The argument will probably the old one about wanting "to charge fairly for an underused resource", you know the one before utility bills spike.

      1. jfm

        Re: Oh really?

        I'm in South Africa and paying in ZAR for a .org I've owned for going on 15 years. I can assure you that any large increase will be extremely painful.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Oh really?

          I'm not saying otherwise, but the real pain would be having to move (I've had mine for 20 years). My point is that the price hike shouldn't be attacked because it will affect charities, but that it is rent-seeking pure and simple.

  3. Terje

    In my opinion both ICANN and ISOC have shown for quite some time now that they need a firm and proper smack in the head as they have clearly lost all connection they ever had to "reality". As they in my eyes have lost all forms of trust they should be dissolved and the responsibilities given over to a new international organization with proper oversight and accountability.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      As far as I can see, we're basically stuck with ICANN now. They got the IANA contract while managing to create a circular oversight process - where their board are only overseen by smaller committees made up of members of their board - and when they can't cover up the stink, they commission and independent report which they then submit to another sub-committee of their board and ignore it. See the .amazon or .aftica sagas for details and repeats of the process.

      So they'll happily sit there and milk the bonuses and 5 star travel - and as long as they don't so totally fuck up that it's worth the effort of completely ripping up internet governance, we're stuck with them. Finding something better risks putting Russia and China in charge of global internet governance instead.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Someone recommended me to "join" ISOC. That means, mostly, signing up for their useless/spammy newsletter.

      I will be cancelling my membership. I recommend everyone do the same.

  4. jonathan keith

    Camels, needles, etc.

    Sometimes I really wish that I believed in an afterlife. And a Hell.

  5. oiseau


    “Ethos Capital is committed to keeping .org accessible and reasonably priced for all, in line with PIR’s longstanding, purpose-driven mission."

    Yes, of course ...

    Just the name chosen for the organization itself is a clue that we're all going to get shafted, big time.

    It's the definition of an oxymoron.

    And if that were not enough, we have Ross Perot, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party involved.


    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Outrageous

      Well, it is possible to have ethical capital... it's called philanthropy, but it needs a healthy wedge of cash derived from other sources to exist. I don't think Ethos Capital HAS any other income stream to divert a proportion of to their philanthropic endeavours supporting charitable and not-for-profits, does it?

      1. W.S.Gosset

        Re-definition alert: "Philanthropy"

        Be aware that a self-inserted group of parasites which is the startup-funding-specialist subculture has re-defined "Philanthropist" to mean someone who raises money from private investors, as their full-time job/position. Theoretically arose from "ethical" intent/display, but no longer in practice.

        So when you see it on business cards, you now know what it actually means rather than what the english word means.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “our Yosemite,”

    they know they can (and WILL) get away with it, because larger than one-man-job orgs are orgs in the name only, not in spirit. In other words, they CAN and WILL pay, because their current org (false) flag is a useful tool to peddle their "non-profit" BUSINESS. As to little people - fuck them, fuck Yosemite :(

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. John Browne 1

      Re: “our Yosemite,”

      Doesn't Yosemite have a supefvolcano under it?

      'As pressure builds' seems appropriate.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: “our Yosemite,”

        Especially when that dammed rabbit steals his carrots!

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: “our Yosemite,”

        "Doesn't Yosemite have a supefvolcano under it?"

        No. That would be Long Valley, several miles to the South East.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: “our Yosemite,”

            Nope, I'm not mixing up anything. The Long Valley caldera, a couple miles South West of Yosemite, has a threat potential of "Very High". Yellowstone only has a "High" threat potential. Note that this is according to the USGS, not wiki.



            1. This post has been deleted by its author

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: “our Yosemite,”

                Last time I checked, Long Valley was a supervolcano ...

    3. W.S.Gosset

      Re: their current [charity] (false) flag is a useful tool to peddle their BUSINESS


      It's a major problem/feature of ALL formal charities, actually. Few years ago, the UK Charities Commission issued a statement which started as condemnation and ended as begging, regarding one of their "hard" requirements: that a charity should spend no more than 85% of its donations on itself. That at least 15% of the money donated to it by well-meaning citizens, should actually go to the nominal purpose of the charity, to the people/purpose that the donators actually wanted to donate to.

      The UK Charity Commission stated that well over 90% of the UK's "charities" failed to meet this requirement. Over 90% of UK Charities spend over 85% of their donations on themselves, not on the charity's purpose.

      As an indication of HOW toxic the virtue-display parasites are, Oxfam (audited as over 95% funnelled into itself IIRC) spent 3 months reclassifying all its expenses internally and announced it was now spending less than 10% on itself. Yay! Totally not gamesmanship or bullshit!

      (Their CEO once appeared on Secret Millionaire -- pungently pointed up how even the tiny fraction that gets to the recipients the donators intend, is essentially all pissed up against the wall by being spent on things utterly useless to them (but sound O SO AWESOME to idiot parasites back in their aircon offices on hte other side of the world).)

      1. W.S.Gosset

        Re: their current [charity] (false) flag is a useful tool to peddle their BUSINESS

        Remember Live Aid? Big concert at Wembley Stadium? Saint Bob Geldof urging us all to save all the poor&starving of Africa?

        Live Aid raised £40m!


        Of that £40m, precisely £0 made it to Africa.

        Every bit of money raised, donated by people with heartstrings plucked and wanting to help, every bit of money went into the pockets of the organisers, performers, admin, etc. (big expose in Sunday Times or FT in IIRC the late 90s)

        Saint Bob! The VIRTUE!

        1. 96percentchimp

          Re: their current [charity] (false) flag is a useful tool to peddle their BUSINESS

          Live Aid/Band Aid was certainly a flawed organisation, but it's nonsense to say that none of the funds raised money made it to Africa, or to suggest that the organisers personally profited from the charity.

          I Googled "Live Aid Sunday Times" and found nothing, which leads me to suspect that this is the legacy of the ST's infamous Insight reporting team, and demonstrates how long a lie can persist in the public consciousness. In 2010 the BBC was forced to apologise over allegations that Band Aid funds were used to buy weapons.

          There are ongoing arguments over how the money was spent and Band Aid's decision to work with the corrupt Ethopian government rather than pull out altogether. The most daming coverage of this comes in SPIN's "Live Aid: The Terrible Truth" and even this doesn't claim that Live Aid was the scam WS Gosset suggests (

          Having worked with a conservation charity, I can confirm that a lot of money (around 50% of income) goes on fundraising. No-one liked this situation, but there didn't seem to be an alternative.

          1. W.S.Gosset

            Re: their current [charity] (false) flag is a useful tool to peddle their BUSINESS

            Apologies, I blurred 2 things: the Concert, and the ongoing LiveAid institution.

            The Concert raised £40m, thereafter all the followup etc raised (iirc) a further £100m+ .

            The concert itself ate all its money. The numbers were quite clearly laid out, including the payments for the administration by the LiveAid org.

            What happened to the further £100m+ I don't know. You say and Spin says that some of that money got through; I'll take your words for it.

            That linked Spin article is excellent, by the way -- I hadn't seen that before; thank you. I parTICularly like the quote from someone at the coalface which underlines the bigger-picture structural parasitism which was OP AC's & my point:

            “If they start raising a ruckus or shifting their policy around, they’ll lose their money from the public,” countered a fieldworker, who asked not to be named. “Then their own bread won’t be buttered.”

            And underlining my further point that nonmonetary perks are also often major incentives:

            In late January and February 1986, Bob Geldof was busy. Lunching with French president Francois Mitterand to discuss new programs for aid to Africa, planning the massive Sport Aid for late May, and pushing School Aid — his program to present young kids a simple picture of the story in Africa. Geldof seems to be working tirelessly and imaginatively to raise more dollars, but he must know by now the dark currency they will become in Ethiopia.

          2. W.S.Gosset

            Re: chuggers

            oh and:

            > a lot of money (around 50% of income) goes on fundraising

            Yes, the Standard Fees for the "charity" Fundraising Industry in the UK and Australia (probably most other countries too) are:

            * cash raised: 50%

            * direct debits signed up: 100% of the first year's payments

            So if a chugger signs you up for monthly donations, and you cancel after 10mths, the charity receives precisely nothing and your intended recipients receive on average less than 15% of that nothing.

  7. NATTtrash

    Isn't it ironic, don't you think..?

    .org is for non-profit. So what about...


    As many commentards here have said before, it's about time that the goals and activities of ICANN are recognised as something "for the common good", and is pulled away from its current US playground, placed under real international care. But all to be heard is crickets....

  8. SVV

    largely responsible for pushing free-market economics into the internet registry market

    ls this the free market economics of competition, innovation and efficiency?

    Or the free market economics of insider dealing, monopolies and extortionate rent seeking?

    Seems that there's two common types these days, and the second is facilitated by the politicians who by a massive coincidence seem to profit massively themselves from what they legislate to promote. Which ironically enough is exactly the same end result that happens in all the undemocratic one party states they all claim to loathe on principle. The thing is, both are types of capitalism, but only one is market capitalism, and it seems many people can be conned into supporting monopoly capitalism just by going "yay, capitalism not socialism!" because of that. An increase from $10 to $60 a year might not be all that much for an individual customer, but mulitiplied by many times over it will be a massive easy money payday again for all those who've managed to get in on this sweetheart deal.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: largely responsible for pushing free-market economics into the internet registry market

      > An increase from $10 to $60 a year might not be all that much

      ... but the second year that price will increase to $360, then $2160, and so on.

      Hey, it's basic greed. They went through all this hassle to milk the .org TLD, they won't have any reticences milking it bone dry. Who needs those NGO whiners anyway.

  9. Pen-y-gors

    Time for a new TLD

    If we can't keep our .orgs, how about we get a new TLD set up, which will be legally (and unbreakably) tied in to the non-profit ethos (hah! No, not that Ethos))

    It needs to be similar to .org, and carry the message that it is quite like .org - can I suggest .org-y or, if hyphens aren't allowed in TLDs, plain .orgy - I think it could attract a fair bit of traffic.

    1. Adair Silver badge

      Re: Time for a new TLD

      .gro - has the right feel, and reversing the name has a long and noble history when it comes to forking the code (and possibly giving a middle finger salute to the grubbly/unhelpful actions that led to the fork).

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: Time for a new TLD

        'grubbly' should = 'grubby', but in many ways is more evocative (and I won't charge for its use!).

    2. Rich 2 Silver badge

      Re: Time for a new TLD

      Or just hijack the .org DS and cut the original one out of the picture. You'd need to get an awful lot of peeps and ISPs on board for that though.

      1. Atomsk

        Re: Time for a new TLD

        It's not that simple. You would need ICANN on board, or a whole new root as the zone is signed to prevent people from hijacking things.

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Time for a new TLD

          It's not that simple. You would need ICANN on board, or a whole new root as the zone is signed to prevent people from hijacking things.

          Ah, well, the Cerf.. I mean cert only matters if you trust the cert holder. And issuer, but that's a different story. So an alt-ICANN would just need to be trusted by enough of the industry to delegate trust to users and everyone else.

          alt-roots have existed (and probably do now) when people created alt-TLDs. Main challenge is avoiding clashes, and fending off lawyers who argue that you're infringing their copyright by copying/shadowing DNS databases. If self-regulation shifts to self-dealing, the potential of a fork or regulatory slapdown should in theory be more likely.. But that's why the profits pay for lobbyists to maintain the status quo.

      2. Victor Ludorum

        Re: Time for a new TLD

        Anybody fancy crowdfunding a new not-for-profit TLD? May I suggest .npo - Non Profit Organisation...

    3. Roger Kynaston

      Re: Time for a new TLD

      I like .gro

      but as Africa is an emerging intertube presence perhaps there needs to be a .afric tld with subdomains - .org.afric, .co.afric, .gov.afric

      and so on.

      That should help to give the middle or two finger salute to ICANN that it needs.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Time for a new TLD

        No need. Each African country, like every other country, already has it's own national TLD. It's the internationality of .org that makes it identifiable and desirable.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gotta love those 'consultations' that direct all responses to /dev/null

    and just go ahead do what was already decided would be done

    really gives you faith in an organisation

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gotta love those 'consultations' that direct all responses to /dev/null

      Sounds like the way town planning works...

  11. JohnFen

    A disaster

    This is a disaster, and nothing the ISOC said in their press release gives any indication otherwise.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. nil0

    Expectation setting

    Note that in all of this, a nice little play is that they've set it up so they can be the good guys if they only raise the prices by 10% (let's call that quadruple or quintuple the inflation rate) every single year.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Expectation setting

      This little snippet snuck through the announcement, it relies on people not understanding what the meaning of compound interest is. (Yes, we all know what it is in theory but most of us have a sort of number blindness that makes it difficult to appreciate what this means five or ten years out.)

  14. Someone Else Silver badge

    Et tu, Vint?

    Cerf was quoted as saying: “I am looking forward to supporting Ethos Capital and PIR in any way I can as they continue to expand the utility of the .org top-level domain in creative and socially responsible ways.”


    Asked on the ISOC members list about the risks of .org domain holders facing domains as much as $60 a year, Cerf surprised many when he responded: “Hard to imagine that $60/year would be a deal breaker for even small non-profits.”

    I am absolutely stunned that Dr. Cerf would so cavalierly brush off these concerns.

    C'mon Vint, I know you, and you know me (think RTI and MCI Mail...). These are not the idle musings of the Vint Cerf I knew back then. I know you've been working at Google for a long time, and the slow but constant sips of Google-Aide may have altered your judgement somewhat. But it is beyond the pale that you, with an idle swipe of your hand, would countenance handing off full control of one of the original top-level domains to a cadre of money-uber-alles conservative politicians.

    Dude! What happened to you?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Et tu, Vint?

      > Dude! What happened to you?

      He most likely got a little gift to help him better understand their point of view. A figurehead endorsement like that is worth a pretty penny, especially for a move you know nobody who doesn't profit from will like or accept. (I don't recall too many people complaining that ".org domains are much too cheap, something has to be done ASAP or it will be the end of the human civilization".)

  15. IGotOut Silver badge

    A we wonder why...

    Russia is building it's own internet. We say it's so they can control what the people see, but maybe they are just plain pissed off with the west (read the USA) doing what the fuck it wants with the internet without any consultantation with the rest of the countries using it.

  16. Fred-internet

    time for some action within ISOC

    Contact your national / regional ISOC chapter to support the call from the Netherlands:

  17. -v(o.o)v-

    Vint Cerf

    I propose that from hereafter Vint Cerf will be referred to as:

    The disgraced internet figure Vint Cerf.

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