back to article Let’s check in on the .org sale fiasco: Senators say No, internet grandees say Yes – and ICANN pretends there's absolutely nothing to see here

A quick hypothetical for you: if your organization received a letter from six senior politicians urging you not to move forward with a controversial decision, and you looked out your windows to see dozens of protesters insisting on the same, would you… Call an emergency meeting of your board/staff Release a public statement …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The government should take .org away from them and tender its running to somone else.

    No payments or rebates. .org was gifted to ISOC, they've all messd up. PIR no longer needs to exist. Taking it from them should just be the start. Investigaions of attempted fraud and insider dealings should be next.

    What would be better is if all the major ISPs created some independent internaional non-political organisation to run root. Hell, why is so much non-technical staff needed anyway? All country codes have been allocated - apart from country breakups and coups, there's not really much admin to do!

    1. DontFeedTheTrolls

      "all the major ISPs created some independent internaional non-political organisation to run root"

      Principle is sound, but why the "major ISPs", aren't they part of the "management" problem of the Internet anyway?

      Why wouldn't it come under the remit of the United Nations? Could easily be run under their banner, run as a "not for profit", but able to cover it's running costs.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Principle is sound, but why the "major ISPs", aren't they part of the "management" problem of the Internet anyway?

        Yep. Back in the mists of time, most of this stuff was decided by the 'community', ie the major ISPs. Time passed, the Internet exploded, and different interests became involved. So as an example, back in the day, the UK's LINX was an ISP's club. Then came some fun meetings to decide if non-ISPs should be allowed to join & peer, eg the CDNs and content members. Same thing happened with Nominet, which lead to registrar's effectively taking that over.

        Why wouldn't it come under the remit of the United Nations? Could easily be run under their banner, run as a "not for profit", but able to cover it's running costs.

        Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. It could be swapping one bloated bureaucracy for another. And past events have shown that 'not for profit' doesn't mean what people think it means, ie ICANN's policy decisions have enriched ICANN.. And now they're doing their own equivalent of the UN's oil for food programme and enriching themselves.

        A logical place to move to would be the ITU, but that's more about defining technical standards rather than commercial/policy. At least in theory. But this fiasco's shown ICANN and some of the related parties may no longer be fit for purpose and should be reformed.

        And kudos to Kieren for his work on raising awareness regarding this mess.

        1. EnviableOne

          Ahh, but why the ITU, surley the IETF are a better home, or the IEEE ....

          this is the problem, who has the best claim. At least untill practically gave them the IANA contract somone had the abitlity to say no to them.

          now ICANN make FIFA and the IOC look squeaky clean, i wouldnt be supprised if the directors of Purpose Domains Direct are not the ICANN board

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            And hence we have the problem. I don't think the IEEE have a good claim to it, but the IETF does. It'll be a pain to find people to agree with me, and another one to get the IETF to agree to take it. The real problem will happen when someone manages to take over the IETF and use it to make money from their lucrative new property, though. After all, ICANN didn't start out like this. Nor did many of the other players with a lot of power in the mechanics of the web. They became this after the people who started them with the best of intentions stepped down and some enterprising people figured out how to be placed in power. At least with an independent thing we have a little hope that it could be taken from them. The United Nations does not have that option unless a large chunk of the world's governments agree (and how often is that).

            1. Yes Me Silver badge

              Not even with a very long bargepole

              " I don't think the IEEE have a good claim to it, but the IETF does. "

              Rubbish. In fact claptrap. Firstly, the IETF wouldn't touch this with a bargepole. Secondly, the conflict of interest would be blatant and massive, since the IETF is funded by... guess what... PIR's revenue stream. So (unlike the PIR sale, which is a very straightforward and transparent deal, whatever the snowflakes are claiming) this would be way outside any version of fair dealing.

  2. IGotOut Silver badge

    What I will find hilarious... if it's allowed to go through, after all capitalism is king, it then turns out the private equity company is Huawei.

    1. allthegoodnamesweretaken

      Re: What I will find hilarious...

      That is actually the only outcome I would find acceptable.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cue the class action lawsuits...

    Name the (shell) companies involved as co-defendants -- specificly noting that said companies must have their registered owners appear in court -- so that when they send in their legal teams to run interference the prosecution can simply ask the judge for a court order telling said owners to either get their asses in or have warrants for their arrest issued.

    Once you've got them in court then start peppering them with all the questions you want answered -- questions they will be under oath to answer or face jail time for contempt. And if they perjure themselves under oath then they'll face even MORE prison time for pissing off the judge.

    I'll get the popcorn...

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Cue the class action lawsuits...

      There’s this thing called the Fifth Amendment that would frustrate your otherwise excellent proposal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cue the class action lawsuits...

        The 5th Amendment applies to criminal cases. This would be a civil suit.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Cue the class action lawsuits...

          The 5th Amendment protection against self-incrimination can apply to civil cases as well.

          1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge

            Re: Cue the class action lawsuits...

            Then since it is a global subject, make a change of venue to Moscow or Beijing...

  4. Snake Silver badge

    Lost their way?

    Not at all. They know EXACTLY where they are going: into the reimagined, classic realm of crony capitalism, returned from the late 19th Century, which is exactly where the powerful, the elite, and the neoconservative want us.

    A new Golden Age, for those with money and power, just like in Olde Times, and everyone else digging the ground with their fingernails, rummaging for anything to keep their heads above the oncoming tides.

    The action is precisely planned, they know precisely where they want this to go. Redaction, distraction and parlor tricks - the new World Truth. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses, and the fools will go along and vote for more of it anyway.

  5. Mark 85

    Follow the money it's been said.

    The question is, .org gets sold. Who gets the money? ICANN obviously but after the check is deposited by ICANN, who gets it?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money it's been said.

      Follow the other money:

      The stuff contained in brown envelopes

      The director appointments afterwards. They will need people with experience in running a domain registry. Who might have that?

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Follow the money it's been said.

      "Who gets the money?"

      The Internet Society gets the money. That's the whole f***ing point mate.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    ICANN's commitment

    "would violate ICANN's commitment to ‘preserve and enhance ... the operational stability, reliability, security ... and openness of the DNS and the Internet"

    If that is the case, then what is the penalty ?

    Let's be clear : ICANN is a rogue organization now. It does what it wants to best serve its own interests, and its charter is pretty much a charred lump of ashes in the furnace. If there is not a clear and imminent danger facing its Board and directors, nothing is going to change.

    It just blows my mind that an organization chartered by the Government to do a specific thing in a specific way can just completely ignore its duties and do whatever it wants without the police marching in to round up those responsible, throw them in jail for treason and have the Government set up new management.

    Why is that not happening ? WHY ?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: ICANN's commitment

      Brown envelopes. That’s why.

      No other logical explanation.

      1. The Nazz

        Re: ICANN's commitment

        Brown envelopes?

        More likely brown suitcases with the values involved.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brown envelopes.

        this is too literal, suggesting funds would have been already transferred to make ICAN into 3 monkeys, in exchange for those envelopes. Either that, or the monkey business of you'll scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

        What is depressing is the scale of this corruption, i.e. ICANNs uniform stand (nothing to see here, move along!). Very much like world's top sports organizations, olympics, soccer (Corruption in our ranks?! Impossible!!!), where the corrupt ones at the top are replaced by new corrupt ones, because they've all become corrupted by huge money involved.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          There is one important difference : sports organizations, including the Olympics, are private affairs, they do not have a Government mandate.

          If sports is corrupt, well, it's their business.

          The corruption at ICANN is everyone's business.

          1. Yes Me Silver badge

            Unblow your mind

            "an organization chartered by the Government"

            No, it isn't, and it never was, although for some years it was bound by a contract with the US Government.

            And actually, despite all the shouting, ICANN does what it's supposed to: it ensures that the DNS root servers are well coordinated; it registers thousands of protocol parameters (that's the IANA function); and it assigns top level domains to registrars under certain conditions.

            You may not like how it does the last part; I don't like it myself, but that's a different question.

  7. Schultz

    "just blows my mind that an organization ... can just ... do whatever it wants..."

    Sell a public good to the highest bidder -- sounds like something that is bound to happen unless it is explicitly illegal. Turns out that the whole system is still run on "Trust", so we are good on that front! Those registering .org domains trusted the system, bad for them.

    It also makes perfect sense that they package it as one giant sale. If they'd sell the Trust piecemeal, the law might catch up to them, or they might even loose the Trust before it is fully monetized! It's clearly essential that the Trust be sold in full and with upfront payment to maximize the profit.

  8. flayman Bronze badge

    Ted Cruz was not (entirely) wrong

    So I guess Ted Cruz was right then, if only for the wrong reasons:

  9. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

    you looked out your windows to see dozens of protesters...

    Given the abhorent behaviour of the organisations involved, I'd not be at all surpised if option e) was:

    e) Smithers! Release the hounds.

  10. cipnt

    Beautifully written

    Another great article by The Register

  11. SPiT

    How about ...

    If I was a small country like say Andorra I'd be declaring that I was reserving all the existing org domain names but with my country code instead of .org and promote a mass switch of .org users. For a barely used top level code this would represent a massive boost in income even at reasonable prices. The value of the .org registry is based entirely on the difficulty of switching which currently is based on the fact that it would be extremely inconvenient for a single organisation, easily worth a highly profitable fee to stay. BUT if it became easier because everyone was doing then the whole financial edifice that this sale is based on could collapse under its own weight. It would be exceptionally amusing if the new registrar jacked prices up and then went bankrupt.

    As a historical example you might consider the fate of all the social networking companies that tried to monetise too early. It's exactly the same issue of customers switching. This could easily go spectacularly wrong for everyone involved. Someone is taking a big risk.

    1. DontFeedTheTrolls

      Re: How about ...

      Why a small country?

      Any philanthropic person or "organisation" can reserve TLDs these days, so spend $180k on a new TLD and operate as a not for profit, with a written constitution and a board of governors.

      "Sold" properly to the current .org users with an easy mass migration path you could kill the sale of .org instantly as all the profit is gone

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: How about ...

        "Sold" properly to the current .org users with an easy mass migration path you could kill the sale of .org instantly as all the profit is gone

        The technical migration is pretty simple, ie changes to zone files. But there'd be huge problems for current .orgs, and costs, so cost of change to communicate their new URLs to their users.

        I think the more interesting question is the risk of root fragmentation and alt-roots. So technically, you could take a copy of the .org zone file and encourage traffic towards an alt-org DNS. Then charge cost+ to register & renew at the alt-org. Basically a bulk DNS 'hijack'. Not sure what the legalities would be, but possibly just copyright for cloning the zone.

        But that's a public good, right? And ICANN says it's ok because there's a 'market', which justified lifting the price cap. And an alt-org would achieve that, given the current problem is transferring the current .org monopoly to a for-profit entity.. And techincally, it is very feasible to break the TLD monopolies.

  12. MiguelC Silver badge

    Is Mike Godwin pulling a Goebbels by defending ISOC's decision?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      He's just improving his retirement fund...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    violate ICANN's commitment

    ICAN clearly BELIEVE in commitments! That is, that Commitments are for mission statements, and SERIOUS MONEY is for those who know where to look for it. Now, with that minor issue sorted, let's focus on our future framework commitments...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The obvious answer.

    Either someone has serious blackmail material on the ICANN people, or the ICANN people are the ones behind the mystery group. Either way, they have proved they cannot be trusted with the Internet and should all be arrested and charged with fraud, false representation and wilful incompetence immediately.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: The obvious answer.

      > should all be arrested and charged with fraud

      Will surely happen!... -Not. No, it will just be their turn to release some brown envelopes to whomever needed, now they're swimming in dough, and it will be "move along folks, nothing to see here, let those good people do their job".

      Not to mention that, following the old saying of "my enemy's enemies are my friends", now Democrats have shown they are critical, ICANN will get the unfettered support of the Republicans (certainly sweetened by some gifts of appreciation from ICANN's side). It's so easy to play mom against dad in the US, your chances to have to go to bed without dessert are vanishingly small...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about Nominet?

    Isn't it time UK government took an interest in this natural monopoly that was handed to Nominet (under what terms?) and now seems to be a law unto itself.

    I've seen the price of .uk names increase from (IIRC) zero in 1995 when it was handled by a naming committee and you had to adhere to their very strict criteria (e.g. one name per business and it must exactly match the business name) With the inception of Nominet in 1996 I believe I paid £100 - or was it £200 to buy a name outright (again IIRC, I hope someone can confirm or correct my memory). Later it changed to a small annual fee.

    Several years later Nominet got in touch to say they had no record of my ownership of the domain I'd been using for several years as I'd not been paying the annual fee and unless I could prove ownership it would revert to them (it's a valuable name). Since then they increased the wholesale fee by 50% (in 2016?), the retail fee is usually about double the wholesale fee so the retailers are happy. Then they released the .uk variant name as an alternative to but without the need for the second level domain name element .co

    The effect of that was that every business with a name needed to buy the variant or risk some scammer getting it and using it for some dodgy purpose, leeching on the long established authority of the name. Of course Nominet offer their dispute resolution service in such situations - for £££

    In effect Nominet doubled the cost of most uk names - and their income.

    So what are UK businesses getting in return for this cash? Well basically Nominet run a database, rather badly, with a very large number of well paid staff and extremely well paid executives. It's a not for profit company - that sounds like a good thing but it just means profits are not distributed to shareholders, instead the staff and executives get looked after rather well... There was a Nominet charitable foundation but that got dropped, surely better to increase the executive's pay.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: What about Nominet?

      > Isn't it time UK government took an interest in this natural monopoly that was handed to Nominet

      Will never happen: Money talks, and it talks louder then you and me.

      See ICANN and the other self-serving pseudo not-for-profit organizations who are managing a potential gold mine: It's only time before someone decides that if somebody is going to get rich here, it might as well be himself.

      The only way to make sure there is no abuse is to regulate the hell out of it, make sure they can't even cough without general approval of some independent assembly with contradicting stakes in the business (to prevent everybody agreeing to pillage the cookie jar). But who would impose this, and on what motives? And why would the perpetrators just throw out their leather seats, luxury cars and gourmet dinners for monks' clothes and some dry bread and water? The first won't bother, and the second will fight it fiercely.

  16. Mike 16

    No (R-xx)?

    If all six senators are Democrats, the whole idea is dead in the water.

    Any merits of the petition are irrelevant. The odds of any action supported only by Dem Senators even being debated (let alone voted on) while there is a GOP Senate majority are slim and none, and that's _before_ any brown envelopes are involved.

    With no possible action on the horizon, a "petition" is completely toothless.

  17. JohnFen

    Opportunity squandered

    This was a clear opportunity for ICANN to look like a hero and perhaps make their past problematic behavior dim a bit in history. But no, they're squandering it instead.

    It's such a shame, and it's scary that they are (theoretically) in control of such a critical part of the internet.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Opportunity squandered

      > a clear opportunity for ICANN to look like a hero

      On one side, "look like a hero", on the other side, "get stupid rich". I wonder which one they'd choose...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

    ICANN was made independent because many did not trust the US Government to be in ultimate charge (not without some reason), thus trading flawed and sometimes corrupt democratic (little d) oversight with always corrupt autocracy with no oversight.

  19. Yes Me Silver badge

    Are you kidding?

    " the most important decision that ICANN may ever make."

    Are you f***ing kidding? The most important decision ICANN could ever make was its very early (if not first) one to expand the number of TLDs without apparent limit, thereby creating an inflationary market in silly names and allowing it to be exploited by unscrupulous money grabbers.

    Allowing the sale of the current operator of one stable and respected TLD registrar is small change in comparison.

    But, anything that makes ICANN look bad is fair game for some people.

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