back to article Now Internet Society told to halt controversial .org sale… by its own advisory council: 'You misread the community mindset around dot-org'

The Internet Society's own members are now opposing its sale of the .org internet registry to an unknown private equity firm. The Chapters Advisory Council, the official voice of Internet Society (ISOC) members, will vote this month on whether to approve a formal recommendation that the society “not proceed [with the sale] …

  1. robidy Silver badge

    Funny how the sniff of some cash appears to corrupt so many.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Corruption

      So many?? I'd argue that there is reasonable enough evidence that the entire United States' ethics has collapsed due to corruption - America has sold its soul for cash. It's all that matters to the majority of people, especially a large percentage of the hypocrites who label themselves "evangelicals" yet will vote for decidedly anti-Christian values (notably destruction of social welfare assistance to the needy) as long as it helps their *own* pocketbook.

      I have become personally disgusted by the greed I see around me, and have become pragmatic in regards to the future because of it.

      1. jason_derp Bronze badge

        Re: Corruption

        "...America has sold its soul for cash."

        Countries don't have souls, or America's would've started to smell like applewood and mesquite decades ago.

        1. Alistair
          Windows

          Re: Corruption

          @jason_derp:

          I suspect those who enjoy a nice long low and slow smoke of tasty proteins might find that suggestion unpleasant. I would suggest that sulfur comes to mind instead.

      2. Lennart Sorensen

        Re: Corruption

        Too bad it doesn't even help the pocketbook of the voters. They are harming themselves. It only helps the pocketbooks of the major campaign donors. But apparently a large percentage of americans have been raised to think anything that helps society in general is socialist (or as they think of it: communist) and hence awful. Never mind that there is plenty of corporate welfare to go around, but for some reason that doesn't count given it only helps a few, not society in general, so that's "capitalism" not "socialism" and hence A-OK.

        1. Keith Langmead

          Re: Corruption

          As a meme I saw recently pointed out, for an American earning $50k their taxes contribute $36 to food stamps and $6 to other social safety net programs, but they also contribute $6,000 to corporate subsidies. Anyone complaining about the first two and not the last one isn't against socialism, they're against poor people.

          1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

            Re: Corruption

            So you get your "facts" from memes?

            1. Radio Wales
              Holmes

              Re: Corruption

              Only if the 'meme' is set upon verifiably accurate facts. Any 'meme' presents a picture, it is up to us to check the facts - as always.

              If we are sensible about things like accuracy, we should always check the facts.

            2. Keith Langmead

              Re: Corruption

              No, I get an idea from a meme... I then checked elsewhere online to confirm the figures were correct (couldn't re-find the meme yesterday, so those figures posted were based on published stats I found not the original meme).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Corruption

            Not just wrong. So dead wrong it is a complete joke. For FY 2017 total Federal social spending on non-Federal employees was 59% of the Federal budget. Defense was 15%. Debt interest and Federal employees benefits was 15%. This leaves 11% for other programs including the supposed "corporate subsidies."

            Oh, and a family of 4 earning $50k would pay....nothing in Income tax with the standard deductions. An individual taking the standard deduction would pay $2,076.

            1. Snake Silver badge

              Re: Corruption

              Good information, but it should be noted that a lot of that "defense spending" is "corporate welfare" by any other name. Only in defense budging can you blow your initial contract quote by up to, or over, 100% and the overage get a rubber stamp of approval and your bill paid (hello, F32, hello?? :taps mic:)

            2. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Corruption

              > This leaves 11% for other programs including the supposed "corporate subsidies."

              But that figure leaves out a huge portion of corporate subsidies, such as tax breaks.

          3. DiViDeD Silver badge

            Re: Corruption

            ... they're against poor people

            Well, of course they are. And that, as Samuel Clemens famously pointed out, is because even the poorest American citizen regards himself as a temporarily cash strapped millionaire.

      3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Corruption

        that the entire United States' ethics has collapsed due to corruption

        What are these ethics you're talking about? American politics were corrupt before independence and continued being so afterwards and then they discovered manifest destiny, which can be used to justify any form of exploitation and made greed the national religion.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Sniff of some cash

      "...sniff of some cash appears to corrupt so many"

      I have not seen any sign of an allegation of corruption in this case, probably because even in the US unjustified allegations of that sort are libellous.

      So I have no idea what those thumbs up are for.

      ISOC has been completely clear what it would do with the money. 100% of the money. And despite Kieren's fishing expedition about their tax status, you can be pretty sure that they've consulted their lawyers about that.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Sniff of some cash

        "you can be pretty sure that they've consulted their lawyers about that"

        Who may well have told them pretty well what Kieran concluded but wrapped up in a lot more, very expensive words.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    "this board already works in a very transparent way”

    Sure it does; the ICANN way. You know it exists, so bow down and grovel.

    Congratulations, ICANN, in demonstrating a thorough disdain for everyone else's opinion, and the complete ignorance of the spirit of your own rules. You have shown the way for other groups to do the same, and now ISOC is emulating your despicable behavior.

    Line them up behind the chemical shed and shoot them all, I say.

    1. }{amis}{
      Mushroom

      Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

      I cant +1 this enough we are soo far past the point that Icant should have been dragged out behind the barn and shot!

      1. Ordinary Donkey
        Terminator

        Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

        Replace them with an AI. You know it's inevitable.

        1. }{amis}{
          Coat

          Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

          They already do the Matrix is a documentary ;-)

      2. Alistair
        Windows

        Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

        @Hamish:

        Both ICANNt and Icahn't.

    2. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

      Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

      dollar grabbing an dpussy grabbin g is done by the folks who re in a position to do so; enabled by the constitu$ion, the right to pursue happine$$

    3. Alistair
      Windows

      Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

      Pascal:

      You have a thing for that chemical shed. I still suggest that the chemical shed could provide a much more appropriate termination, depending on what is in said shed.

      What is it you keep in your shed Pascal?

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: What is it you keep in your shed Pascal?

        Chemicals

        1. The First Dave

          Re: What is it you keep in your shed Pascal?

          Oxygen is a chemical, so is Nitrogen, and for that matter Carbon Dioxide...

    4. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

      Why are people talking about the ICANN Board when the topic in the story is the ISOC Board? But again Kieren is up to his fact-bending tricks:

      ...when the ISOC board claimed to have met for two weeks in November to discuss the Ethos Capital offer to buy .org, but made no mention of the proposal and only made ISOC members and chapters aware of the decision after it had been made.
      They met daily (by teleconf) for two weeks to discuss a proposed $1.3B deal. It would have been incredibly sloppy not to take it that seriously. And it was kept secret because the buyers insisted, which is hardly unusual for a deal of that size; anything else would have been remarkable. And the Board decided, because such a matter is evidently a Board decision.

      Now it's obvious with hindsight that the Board should have thought a lot more deeply about the wording of the announcement, but there we are.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: "this board already works in a very transparent way”

        "Why are people talking about the ICANN Board when the topic in the story is the ISOC Board?"

        It's this little thing called comparison. People are alleging that ISOC's board is acting corruptly or at least self-servingly, and they compare this to actions performed by ICANN's board which they allege to be similarly corrupt or self-serving. They state this comparison outright. As comparisons go, this one is somewhat apt, as the current .org sale has been dramatically affected by decisions made by both boards.

        "They [ISOC] met daily (by teleconf) for two weeks to discuss a proposed $1.3B deal. It would have been incredibly sloppy not to take it that seriously."

        Sure. You are alleging that this statement contradicts or explains part of the quote you were responding to? I don't get it. The closest thing I can think of is that the quote says that ISOC "claimed to have met" and you're stating that they definitely did meet. But if that's your point, you are missing the important part of the sentence where it is alleged that the members and chapters were not brought into the discussions, I.E. that ISOC claimed the reason for meeting was to discuss the deal, but they had already made their decision and didn't allow any other parties to interfere. The quote you responded to clearly indicated that more discussion with more people should have happened, and your reply seems to be attacking the idea that no discussion was needed.

        "And it was kept secret because the buyers insisted, which is hardly unusual for a deal of that size; anything else would have been remarkable. And the Board decided, because such a matter is evidently a Board decision."

        No, it's not remarkable for a large deal to have some public scrutiny. I'll concede that a lot of high-value deals are kept undisclosed, but not all of them. Not to mention that, when an organization has a lot of subunits like chapters and an ostensible public service purpose, there's often a culture of more openness, both in information and governance. That's not required, and ISOC either doesn't have it or decided to abandon it, but stop trying to make that out to be standard procedure when it's simply one option among many.

    5. Schultz Silver badge
      Stop

      "Line them up behind the chemical shed and shoot them all, I say."

      Down-voted for your remarkable lack of human empathy. You are talking about human beings. No matter how much you disagree with somebody, please show some respect for human life.

      I come from Germany, and 'line them up ...' sounds just like something my grandfather might have heard or spoken himself. That makes it a bit more real, doesn't it? Imagine how you might feel if others would make such comments about you.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        You misunderstand my point. I am not advocating gratuitous murder, I am advocating capital punishment.

        ICANN has a mandate of managing what has become the most important human technology of communication that exists, and it is dealing with that responsibility like an irresponsible teenager.

        I charge the members of the board of treason, pure and simple. The punishment for treason is execution by firing squad.

        It is necessary in order to ensure that the next board will be aware of the consequences of taking advantage of their position and ignoring the charge that they have been honored with.

        It is more necessary since the behavior of the ICANN board has now tainted other organizations of equal importance.

        So I say shoot them. Not because of any bloodthirsty sense of entertainment, but because order must be restored and I see no other way of restoring it in a way that will leave the proper mark on the successors of the charge.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Line them up behind the chemical shed and shoot them all, I say."

        Maybe your grandfather was correct about some creatures. The things running this group of degenerates forswore their humanity the moment they let their greedy hand-wringing sniveling selves value money over the good of REAL humans. Maybe a solution is needed to take care of these degenerates.

  3. teknopaul Silver badge

    Getting there

    If Ethos Capital cant afford a few flights, maybe they dont have that much capital. Holding them off might work.

    Keep up the good work.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Getting there

      Looking at their last annual report, they're not that big a fund (roughly 125 million in total assets), most of which is invested. While I am not in any way knowledgeable on financial stuff/deals their reports on other "deals" don't exactly read like a beacon of ethical behaviour either imho.

      Their plan seems to have been to get everyone opposing them in one room and pressure and/or bribe them into making a deal somehow. When most opposing forces refused to put themselves in that position they called the whole thing off because the whole point was to get them all in the same room.

      1. Pseu Donyme

        Endgame ?

        Given the buyer's relatively modest total assets compared to the size of the deal this looks like a typical private equity leveraged buyout, in which case the goal tends to be loading the target with as much debt as possible - I suppose the .org cash flow would support quite a bit (?) - and then siphoning off the money as dividends and consulting fees, leaving a wreck ripe for bankruptcy (and, in this case, possibly a taxpayer bailout as a part of vital infrastructure).

      2. KittenHuffer Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Getting there

        Actually their plan was to get everyone opposing them to fly there on a 787 Max!!!!

        1. RegGuy1 Silver badge

          Re: Getting there

          Phew. That's lucky. It could have been a 737 Max.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Getting there

        Yeah, private equity firms are unethical at best, criminal at worst, and should be treated like Polonium. Stay away from them, and don't accept any *cough*pOLONIum and cheese sandwiches offered to you by Vlad.

  4. Chris G Silver badge

    Transparency

    It's transparently obvious they are planning to make themselves rich at everyone else's expense.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Transparency

      I expect that a lot of spam and malware sources would be very interested in purchasing .org domains because the TLD is trusted by default in a lot of code and users minds. Unfortunately, using the internet these days is like being flushed down the toilet and floating in the sewer.

      This sale will just make it worse. But it's not a big deal I guess, there's money to be made and that's all that matters, who cares about users anymore?

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: using the internet these days is like being flushed down the toilet and floating in the sewer.

        You're still floating?

        ... you lucky bastard ...

    2. EnviableOne Silver badge

      Re: Transparency

      officials at ICANN are used to a culture that was “highly resistant to openness and accountability”.

      ISOC are learning from them

      As i've said before, I would not be suupprised if the Current ICANN board are behind the People/corps that are behind the Ethos Capital Bid

      1. John 104

        Re: Transparency

        Whether or not they are behind the folks making the bid, you can be assured that there will be some laundering of money and kick back if the deal is done.

        1. Schultz Silver badge
          Happy

          "there will be some laundering of money and kick back if the deal is done"

          It's not laundering money and kick back if Goldman Sachs takes care of it. It's called deal structuring and consulting. The rules are different when you organize deals on the G$ scale.

  5. oiseau Silver badge
    Flame

    The bloody obvious

    There is a feeling amongst chapters that ISOC seems to have disregarded ...

    A feeling?

    Seems to have?

    Really?

    It's all been bloody blindingly obvious from the very start if you ask me, or anyone else with just a modicum of common sense, actually.

    It was about time.

    What is needed once the smoke clears is a thorough investigation of how this scandalous scam came to be to then hold to task those responsible for it.

    O.

    1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: The bloody obvious

      Personally I believe the assertions by the ISOC trustees and staff that there is no personal gain or corruption involved and that they thought they were acting in the best interests of the society. I think they naively saw a generous opportunity to secure the financial future of the society.

      However, they apparently missed the fact that this would destroy ISOC - leaving it with plenty of money but no way to achieve its aims as its constituency of supporters (particularly those outside the US) leave and governments and regulators perceive it to now be irrelevant.

      I am not alone in planning to leave ISOC if this transaction goes through. I would expect a significant number of the existing chapters and members would support setting up a new society to promote the goals ISOC was supposed to promote.

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Angel

        Re: The bloody obvious

        Yes of course. Not a single brown envelope in sight. Not even the merest suggestion of one.

        When people try to ram through a secret deal without offering any explanation, what other possible explanation could there be?

      2. Lennart Sorensen

        Re: The bloody obvious

        Well it is possible that Ethos (and company) came along and said "Hey, how would you like to secure tons of money for your organization? Just keep this our little secret. You sell us .org and we give you all this money to focus on instead. Trust us, we won't harm your members that rely on .org domains, we know what we are doing."

        Of course if they bought that then they have no business running ISOC in the first place.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: The bloody obvious

        > I think they naively saw a generous opportunity to secure the financial future of the society.

        Why do you think this? Particularly given the amount of inside dealing this has involved. Literally everything I've seen and heard about this deal, including everything the organizations and people involved have said, makes this seem like obvious and naked corruption to me.

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Re: The bloody obvious

          @JohnFen Assuming your question was not just rhetorical, this is why I think that...

          I do not know any of the people involved or any inside information - in fact I mostly only know what has been discussed on the Internet Policy list. I strongly disagree with Andrew Sullivan but I have seen no evidence, even from his biggest critics, that he has acted improperly and his actions appear to be consistent with the job he is paid to do, although I believe he has made the wrong decision.

          I mostly blame the Trustees. Their job is to review the decisions of the CEO and to consider the whole impact on the goals, reputation and future of ISOC. It disturbs me that they have not published minutes and other documents, and it worries me that, apparently, there was no opposition to the deal amongst the Trustees. However, again there is absolutely no evidence of any corruption (and little likely benefit to any of them) - and several of them are long term Internet people with good reputations. I think they have been guilty of naivety and short-termism, and have probably been over-worried about their responsibility for long-term funding of IETF and too little concerned with what I consider the important goals of ISOC (international Internet issues).

          I have not considered the people on the Ethos side of things. To be honest, I have little information and I assume their goals to be the worst. But my comment wasn't about them.

          Ethos have made a very tempting offer to ISOC to secure their financial future. I am not surprised the staff (up to and including the CEO) felt it could not be turned down. However, the Trustees have failed all of us who care about ISOC. When ISOC is replaced, we (the international community) must do a better job of having Trustees which properly consider the international internet, not just IETF funding.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: The bloody obvious

            My question was genuine, not rhetorical at all. Thanks for your answer. I think that perhaps I put a lot more importance on the self-dealing that is involved in this than you do -- perhaps that's why have such different views on this matter.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: The bloody obvious

          My inclination is to believe people like John Levine, who's an ISOC board member and has had a long public career in computing. I don't believe, given the available evidence, that Levine is corrupt or looking to profit off this deal.

          I don't know anything about the other ISOC board members. I'm suspicious of Sullivan. I don't have the slightest faith the good intentions of Ethos or Chehade.

          It's not necessary that the ISOC board members be corrupt to have voted for this deal. People fall for swindles all the time - even, indeed especially, highly educated people (because of Dunning-Kruger and other psychological traps).

      4. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: The bloody obvious

        > I am not alone in planning to leave ISOC if this transaction goes through.

        Why does the success of the transaction matter? Their intent has been shown. If it doesn't go through, it's simply going to be due to the baclkash, or regulation.

        1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

          Re: The bloody obvious

          If the backlash causes real change, including Trustees selected by Chapters and Members, and the replacement Trustees being clearly determined to protect .org as well as concentrate on the international internet agenda, then it might be worth staying.

          Unfortunately, I do not expect that to happen, and I think ISOC is probably dead.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: The bloody obvious

            Ah.. I see what you're saying.. Well, hopefully those changes happen. It would be a shame if everything goes to ruin.

    2. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: The bloody obvious

      Sorry, can you explain exactly who is being scammed here? Who is/are the victim/s and what exactly are they losing?

      Since it isn't ISOC (they get a capital amount instead of a revenue stream), and it isn't the company that actually performs the name registration work (they get a new owner), and it isn't ICANN (they still get their dues), and it isn't the organizations registering their .org names (they still get their registrations at a competitive price), who is being scammed?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: The bloody obvious

        Do you really not get it? I'll walk you through it. Take the last thing you said it couldn't be. I'll paste it here for you:

        "it isn't the organizations registering their .org names (they still get their registrations at a competitive price)"

        See that parenthesized claim? Why do you assume that? Why do you assume that the price won't change? Why do you assume that the competition exists? Because the competition doesn't exist for everyone who already has a .org, as they will have to either pay whatever price is quoted or go through the turmoil of switching domains. That involves moving systems around, reconfiguring mail and other communications, ensuring that all their customers, clients, or visitors know this is happening, and worrying about someone else grabbing the .org they just abandoned. They have to worry about that because, in the absolute best case scenario, that person will make it even more expensive if they should ever want to get it back. In the scenarios that will actually happen, people will grab the .org to impersonate them, either riding off the goodwill they have generated (and eroding it for the place that still exists) or stealing information, money, or credentials from their former customers, clients, or visitors. So we've proven that there isn't much competition.

        Now, you already know that ICANN has removed restrictions on how much .org domains can cost. Technically, there's a possibility that a for-profit entity with lots of debts to pay down will buy up the domain that is a nearly perfect monopoly property and then keep the prices the same. Just like it's technically possible that I'm a master of magic, have snuck into your house, and slipped some money into your pocket without you noticing me. Go and check if I've done that.

      2. Schultz Silver badge
        Holmes

        who is being scammed?

        So somebody gets to collect a billion dollars and nobody has to pay for that? ("the organizations registering their .org names [...] still get their registrations at a competitive price)"?!

        Maybe you should go back to business school. No, make that the school of the bleedingly obvious. Somebody has to pay for that billion and the additional billion in interest, consulting fees, and general operational cost of the beautiful new billion-dollar business. Unless you assume that those investors are total idiots and will sink a billion into a mostly worthless endeavor. Come again?

  6. Drew 11

    And once that investigation is completed, how about one regarding how domain registrants STILL don't have any real representation at ICANN, 20+ years after IDNO tried and nearly suceeded to get membership in the DNSO, but was squashed at the last hurdle by the corporate/commercial interest who got control of ICANN from day 1?

  7. Pseu Donyme

    I'm glad

    There seems to be hope still that you don't get away with openly stealing the very thing you were supposed to guard.

  8. GeekyDee

    poison pill time?

    Require it to remain whole and intact, and any attempt to sell all or part of it causes the .ORG registry to revert back to ISOC and PIR. That is what Capital people do, load with debt, pay themselves exorbitant salaries, sell off the profitable parts, and then go bankrupt.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: poison pill time?

      That's not sufficient. That would prevent the scenario you've discussed, but they have another option, which already seems more likely to me. That is to buy it and start a massive price increase program until they finally do manage to drive all the customers away. That'll take a while since it's such a popular domain, so it will probably make them quite a tidy profit. Meanwhile, at least a couple million places, many of them individuals or charitable organizations, get hurt. It's not enough that they must keep it intact. If you want a reliable poison pill, make it a requirement that the prices not change for twenty years, and is limited to some low value after that point. If you do that, I guarantee they won't be buying.

  9. Eduard Coli

    Obviously oblivious

    Quoting the obvious: “There is a feeling amongst chapters that ISOC seems to have disregarded community participation, failed to properly account for the potential community impact, and misread the community mindset around the .ORG TLD,” the Chapters Advisory Council's proposed advice to the ISOC board.

    This has been the case since ICANN.

    The organization has morphed itself into a money making scheme for insiders.

    Ethos will pay whatever the lip service costs and do what it will like every other financial institution these days.

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