back to article ICANN finally halts $1.1bn sale of .org registry, says it's 'the right thing to do' after months of controversy

ICANN has vetoed the proposed $1.1bn sale of the .org registry to an unknown private equity firm, saying this was “the right thing to do.” The DNS overseer has been under growing pressure to use its authority to refuse the planned transfer of the top-level domain from the Internet Society to Ethos Capital, most recently from …

  1. David 132 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Practice, don't preach

    its own bylaws including an entire section on transparency that states it “shall operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner.”

    Yeah. Always beware of any organization that feels it has to boast about making special efforts to do what should come naturally and automatically and without "look at me, I'm being super honest and trustworthy!!" fanfare.

    To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Practice, don't preach

      Are you suggesting that the motto ‘Don’t be evil’ might be insufficient reason to trust Google to do as they please with everyone’s data?

      How dare you!

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Practice, don't preach

        To be fair, go ogle dropped that motto back in 2015.

        Alphabet's new motto is "Do The Right Thing". For whom they don't say ...

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: Practice, don't preach

          To be fair...

          They had to reject the first choice of updated slogan, "Sell your soul", as it was a little to specific for their needs.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Practice, don't preach

            > They had to reject the first choice of updated slogan, "Sell your soul", as it was a little to specific for their needs.

            I thought they'd not gone with that choice as it was already too late.

          2. jonathan keith Silver badge

            Re: Practice, don't preach

            So "All Your Base Are Belong To Us" was in fact their second choice then.

          3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

            Re: Practice, don't preach

            They had to reject the first choice of updated slogan, "Sell your soul", as it was a little to specific for their needs.

            That's for internal/employee use only. For it's customers, 'sell' would be troublesome as it expects those souls to be freely given, and would offer no compensation in this or any future lives.

          4. MrDamage

            Re: Practice, don't preach

            It's not that it was a little too specific, it's more along the lines that there are better tax breaks to leasing souls, than buying them.

        2. NeilPost Bronze badge

          Re: Practice, don't preach

          Is it not ‘Better Call Saul’???

      2. Irongut Silver badge

        Re: Practice, don't preach

        I think you spelled that worng, it should be: "Be more evil"

  2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    THANK-YOU KIEREN

    I sincerely believe that your thorough investigative jounralism into this issue not only provided a great amount of extra detail to those of us with some knowledge of the subject, but also served as an accurate summary for the AG, and those in the media that may have otherwise not reported it.

    I don't know the details, but I wouldn't be surprised if this decision has been made because of your reporting.

    Anyway, quoting Amy Sample Ward from the article:

    Now, ICANN must move forward with a plan for a competitive selection process to assign .Org management to a home that has the interest of nonprofits and people at its center."

    Yes, I was going to ask "What happens next?"

    Is it a done deal that the ISOC and/or PIR have lost the TLD... and without renumeration?

    1. Yes Me Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Shame on you, Kieren

      This decision is a sad triumph of magical thinking over rationality. In so far as Kieren's biased reporting has helped to influence the decision, it isn't a good day for The Register either.

      Just to recap: .org has been operated as a commercial registry since 1998, in a highly competitive market where the price of registering a name in a database has been kept pretty low. There has been essentially no vetting of who registers in .org, and it's been used for commercial or malicious purposes as well as for non-commercial organisations (only some of which are non-profits or NGOs). Who owns the company that runs the registry database has no impact on the perceived value of the name.

      So blocking this sale is irrational, and will possibly have negative impacts that people will look back on in 20 years with some considerable regret.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm...

        So fundamentally your defence of the proposed sale is that *some* people are making money in the .Org realm, so why shouldn't the registrars be able to be taken private, operations hidden from public view behind not only corporate firewalls but layered shell companies, and prices raised to make untold millions off anyone else, and all, who use said registry, in order to permit "free market" to have its reign?

        Hmmm. And you'll wonder why you have so many downvotes, so quickly accumulating.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Hmmm...

          Yes Me is probably going to claim s/he was being sarcastic.

      2. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

        Re: Shame on you, Kieren

        Having worked in the non profit sector for 20 years (and having seen the worst and the best of it) your opinions should be saved for Fox and Freinds. You might even get up voted there.

      3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Shame on you, Kieren

        I don't care that non-charities use it.

        Who owns the company has a huge impact on the value of the name, if they're allowed to set their own prices.

        It's a captive, not a free market.. Let third party registrars register .org domains without going through PIR, and I couldn't care less if they are sold off.... BUT, we already have that layer. Registrars can compete on the selling of .org domains knowing that the gatekeeper of .org can't hold them, or us, to ransom. Ethos Capital are welcome to set themselves up as a registrar if they want to deal in .org domains.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Shame on you, Kieren

          To clairify.... I was and still am dead against the opening up of .org to non-charities, and .net to non-ISP's etc.

          It's only purpose - like with the new TLD's was to make money by forcing people to get multiple domain names.

          What I meant in the above post is that I don't think the fact non-profits also now use .org should be considered relevant to the case.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Shame on you, Kieren

            I was under the impression that ".org" domains were intended for "non-commercial" entities and not just charities. I've had two ".org" domains for going on 20 years (one for personal/family use and another for a Linux `enthusiast' site). Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

            1. MrDamage

              Re: Shame on you, Kieren

              No. You've been doing it right. I, too, used to have all my small, personal websites on a .org address because that's what the org domain was for.

              ISP's and other twatdangles on the early days of the web advertising "get your own dotcom" fucked it up for everybody.

            2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: Shame on you, Kieren

              Yes, I misphrased what I meant.

              When I said "non-charities", I was referring to commercial operations - I was talking about when the restrictions were removed, and .org becoming "just another domain"

              I should have said "non-comercial" entities. I didn't mean to say .org should only be for literal charities.

              I too have had my own .orgs for over 20 years, and they aren't for charities!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Shame on you, Kieren

            As the AC response above says, .org isn't just for charities, its charter includes families. I know someone who owns a family .org domain who's name has subsequently been used by a large organization which did not exist when the domain was registered. When they found their name was "owned" by someone already they tried to go through the dispute process and that was thrown out since family use is one of the approved uses of .org. The organization lost their dispute and have to use a different domain name.

            1. bombastic bob Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: Shame on you, Kieren

              there was once an alt-hacker.org that was owned by a guy who was a frequent poster to the alt.hacker newsgroup (unfortunately he died a few years ago and the domain expired). But that is one example of an individual who had a '.org' address related to a USENET newsgroup, and I'm pretty sure others also exist.

              "non-commercial" use is probably the criteria for '.org', as I understand it anyway.

              Perhaps the REAL question is whether selling '.org' makes it beneficial to the owners of domain names or not. At this point it doesn't make a difference to me either way, but if the first thing that happened after "someone" buying the domain registry is an INCREASE IN PRICE, that question would be quickly answered.

              .

          3. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: Shame on you, Kieren

            "To clairify.... I was and still am dead against the opening up of .org to non-charities, and .net to non-ISP's etc."

            Why? Well, not exactly why against .net, as an ISP-specific domain makes sense, but why against .org? For one thing, it was never restricted to charities even if some national .org.[country] domains have been. If you would like to see it restricted, where are the following supposed to go:

            1. Personal sites that aren't commercial.

            2. Nonprofits that aren't charities because writing useful software often doesn't count.

            3. Noncommercial groups' sites, such as organizations for specific interests.

            4. International groups that wouldn't make sense to use a country-specific domain.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: Shame on you, Kieren

              I misphrased what I meant.

              When I said "non-charities", I was referring to commercial operations - I was talking about when the restrictions were removed, and .org becoming "just another domain"

              The types of sites you list woulf be fine under .org - I didn't intend to say they weren't.

              Hell, I've had my own .orgs for over 20 years, and they aren't for charities!

        2. Stuart 22

          Re: Shame on you, Kieren

          "I don't care that non-charities use it."

          I do care that non-charities/non-commercial persons use it. But not enough that banning others would be a benefit. The issue is that doing a hard segmentation of tlds costs money in administration and introduces silly anomalies in whatever policy is enacted.

          Most written policies (like battle plans) fail with the first contact with the ememy as Nominet registrars know too well. I speak (as a registrar) when it comes down to registrant verification that means many small community organisations are not permitted to register *.org.uk domains and hence go to .org.

          Keeping .org fees low should be the prime aim for those registrants who want to spend the money doing better things than lining some obscure owner's pocket.

          1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

            Re: Shame on you, Kieren

            Yeah. As I clarified in my response. I meant that I don't care in the context of this .org sale.

            The whole deregulation of .org and .net, amongst others, was a bad move, only done to make some people more money.

      4. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Shame on you, Kieren

        This looked to me like an insider deal to asset strip the registry, nothing more.

        Nothing about the ownership, this was about a former CEO of ICANN looking like he was unfairly making a quick buck (actually a lot more than that!).

      5. oiseau Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Shame on you, Kieren

        Shame on you, Kieren

        Really?

        Seems too much time inside finally got to your brain.

        O.

      6. Steve K Silver badge

        Re: Shame on you, Kieren

        blocking this sale is irrational

        Why? If a sale is inevitable, then surely a competitive bidding process is essential, with transparency from the bidding parties so that the true ownership is evident.

        An asset-stripping sale strategy does not benefit all ORG stakeholders - only PIR and the purchaser.

    2. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      It's the Reg wot won it!

      Echo the thanks to Kieren and the Reg.

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: THANK-YOU KIEREN

      I have grown inured to the many questionable decisions made companies and governments but this one had me gobsmacked, which is rare, and in a good way, which seemed impossible.

      Thanks to Kieren and all the journalists who covered this and to all of the people and groups that spoke out.

    4. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: THANK-YOU KIEREN

      Anyway, quoting Amy Sample Ward from the article:

      Now, ICANN must move forward with a plan for a competitive selection process to assign .Org management to a home that has the interest of nonprofits and people at its center."

      Yes, I was going to ask "What happens next?"

      Well, it's ICANN. Not sure where the .org contract sits at the moment, ie how long it has to run with it's current operator.. But what I (cynically) expect will happen is ICANN will wait a while, then announce that competitive process. Which will probably have the interests of the people at it's center, ie current/former ICANN staff, and it'll be back to square one.. Possibly including a fresh bid from a renamed Ethos.

      1. teknopaul Silver badge

        Re: THANK-YOU KIEREN

        They might think twice about that, with the vulture circling.

        Well done. As a .org owner, thank you.

        IT'S THE REG WOT ONE IT!

  3. redpawn Silver badge

    Only profit motivated scum

    can protect the public interest. Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit. Society will unravel because envy of the super rich is the glue that holds the internet together.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

      Ummm... what???

      Charities don't ever "turn a profit". That's one of the core definitions of a charity. All proceeds are returned to the charities' beneficiaries.

      1. IGotOut Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

        All proceeds are returned to the charities'

        I wish that were true.

        Next time you see a church asking for a few grand for repairs, ask the local vicar / priest why they don't just sell some of the billions of Pounds in shares.

        Just like a business, there seems to be a tipping point where making money becomes the be all and end all of it and screw everyone else.

        I've worked and helped set up charities, and it pisses me off the big ones putting out the begging bowl when they are sitting in millions.

        Support your little local charity, the chances are they are in it for the love of what they do, not for the money. Looking at you RSPCA...still killing healthy animals for no reason? Yup thought so.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

          Always pays to go away and check on the reality before making sweeping generalisations based on ignorance, prejudice and/or misunderstanding.

          Just for the record, the Church Commissioners' 'billions' are basically another pension fund - like all the many other pension funds operating around the world. Basically those 'billions' are completely tied up. They are certainly not available for covering the day to day running costs of the Church of England, let alone keeping the roof on your local parish church building. All of that, including the vicar's salary, is paid for out of what people contribute week by week.

          Yes, the CoE could flof off all it's buildings and liquidate it's investment assets (the pension fund) and give it all away. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to do, but please don't imagine that there wouldn't be poor people tomorrow, or people in need a place to gather to worship and to use for the benefit of the local community. And so we begin again.

          In the end having money isn't really a problem - how we get it, and what we do with it (and why) - are definitely questions worth asking.

          1. Adair Silver badge

            Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

            Oh, and as for ICANN - just get rid of the whole steaming pile. It has long since ceased to have any relationship with the spirit and intent of its foundation. ICANN is clearly no longer fit for purpose.

            1. Mage Silver badge
              Windows

              Re: as for ICANN - just get rid of ...

              Yes. Not sure with what.

              Technically the ITU which existed from Victorian times before the UN took it over in 1948 ought to look after DNS and IP allocations and approve physical communications satellites (not the FCC), not just the bands.

              However the ITU is in need of some reforms.

              1. G Olson

                Re: as for ICANN - just get rid of ...

                Not as long as the ITU is infested with United Nations bureaucrats

              2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                Re: as for ICANN - just get rid of ...

                However the ITU is in need of some reforms.

                I think you've just won the Understatement of the Year award.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: as for ICANN - just get rid of ...

                If the ITU were to take over running the Internet would they make us go back to using the OSI network stack?

                Suddenly going back to sending post cards doesn't sound too bad.

                1. Roland6 Silver badge

                  Re: as for ICANN - just get rid of ...

                  > they make us go back to using the OSI network stack?

                  It worked, the MAP/TOP/GOSIP profile isn't too dissimilar to TCP/IP and CLNS out-of-the-box supports whatever address space you wish to define.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

            "They are certainly not available for covering the day to day running costs of the Church of England, let alone keeping the roof on your local parish church building."

            Our local parish church is literally ancient. Over the years the local community have generously supported appeals to keep the building in good repair, The actual congregation is very small and would not be able to raise such sums on their own.

            At one of the church's community fund-raising events a rather eager cleric seemed impressed by my knowledge of his biblical references. Until I left school the Christian religion was a daily imposition on my life. There were no exemptions for being a declared atheist at age 14.

            Ascertaining I was not a member of a congregation anywhere - he erroneously decided I was an ideal floating Christian to add to his congregation. I played it softly - trying not to be uncharitable. After extolling their church's religious virtues - he decided to use a clincher. He explained - very confidentially - that the day's takings were not going towards the church building fund. Instead they were going to be used to send evangelical missions into the local non-denominational State schools.

            I have never contributed since to their fund-raising.

          3. JimC

            Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

            Plus of course a lot of those billions quoted include property values. What, for example, is the value of the site St Pauls is on?

            1. Dazed and Confused Silver badge

              Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

              > What, for example, is the value of the site St Pauls is on?

              Do you really think you'd get permission to use it for anything else?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

                "Do you really think you'd get permission to use it for anything else?"

                Why not? Many historical buildings - religious or not - no longer serve their original function. Many of the English cathedrals are now very dependent on income from secular tourists and as entertainment venues.

                Large naves without fixed pews were originally useful for all sorts of public uses - and many are now reverting to that cleared space layout. In their original construction the naves were used by the local population in many secular ways eg markets. The clerics' elite role was to secrete themselves in the quire behind a rood screen. There they conducted a daily liturgy between themselves and their deity - ignoring any congregation and its activities. Any choir was there to aid the liturgy - not to entertain or involve the congregation.

                Some English cathedrals no longer advertise which services will be sung by girl or boy treble sections of their choirs. Their argument is that the congregation numbers increase significantly when it is known that he trebles will be boys. This offends the clerics' sense of religious purity - in that people are obviously coming to be entertained rather than to affirm their belief in the tribal deity.

                In the reign of Oliver Cromwell the pious Puritans banished music from religious observance - regarding it an entertaining distraction from the purity of the spoken religious word. In some cases the ransacked cathedrals were used as stables for their troops' horses.

        2. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

          Ok yes I do take your point.

          Let me revise my original comment to say all charities are supposed to return all proceeds to their beneficiaries, minus their operating costs which they are generally expected to minimise.

          Agreed some certainly seem to reach a point where one might question how much is actually distributed vs. how much is spent on "operating costs" such as overly glamourous HQs and questionable fact-finding missions to exotic locales.

          1. aks Bronze badge

            Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

            Charities do not make a profit, they have a surplus (terminology rather than meaning).

            What many of the larger charities do is hoard that surplus. There are supposed to be upper limits but some very well known ones seem to have vast resources that would cover their running costs for a very long time.

            1. JimC

              Re: vast resources that would cover their running costs for a very long time.

              And boy, they are going to need them right now...

      2. not.known@this.address Silver badge

        Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

        I think that was kind of the point - Yes Me's post seems to imply that allowing a secretive "organisation" with 2 "employees" and 1 previous ICANN chief as the brains behind it to own the registry would be the only way anyone with a .org address could be trusted, so that post was showing what a crock that idea was...

        1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

          Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

          If that was the OP's intent I'm struggling to see it.

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Now charities are doomed to never turn a profit.

        regarding non-profits...

        You might want to study "fund accounting", specifically how it works and why it's done "that way", and you'll see how non-profits do their thing (from an accounting perspective).

        It just means they don't pay out dividends or increase stock value or anything like that. "Fund" accounts are depleted via expenses, and added to by contributions. It's not quite the same as debits and credits with a profit/loss statement at the end. It's more like buckets into which money is poured, and then taken out to fund things [like expenses, charity, etc.]. A school (or the school store) might use fund accounting, which is where my experience with it was [writing an accounting package for school stores back in the 90's]. Also your average non-profit could do things that way. So it's a little different than normal accounting, but not THAT different.

        I would expect everyone in I.T. has had to do a LOT of accountant support, so this shouldn't be too difficult for people who visit this web site. heh.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Only profit motivated scum

      Are you being sarcastic?

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Only profit motivated scum

        I thought the original post was sarcastic, praising people while using terms like "scum" and "envy" to talk about the same people. The people voting on that post don't seem to agree though. If that post is not sarcastic, it's one of the weirdest ways to argue for an opinion I've seen.

  4. randomdomainer

    Looks like ICANN was encouraged to do the right thing having exhausted all other attempts to get the sale through. Only for the intervention of the Californian AG, the deal would have gone through

  5. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
    Devil

    Er ...

    Hopefully as one of the consequences of this controversy, some light will now be shone on the internal workings of ICANN.

    A multi-megawatt laser would seem appropriate.

    1. don't you hate it when you lose your account Bronze badge

      I suggest

      Calling in the culture ship meat fucker, it's the only way to be sure.

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Er ...

      some light will now be shone on the internal workings of ICANN.

      They have COVID-19?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Er ...

        In that case, maybe a nice big healthy and cleansing injection of Domestos might be a better idea.

        (In case of humour impairment, please see pretty icon picture above and to the right)

    3. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Er ...

      It may be worth somebody looking for a reason for the AG to subpoena everything fron ICANN and have a good browse through it.

  6. jake Silver badge

    Just don't turn your back on 'em.

    That kind of loot is, shall we say, highly motivational.

    There will be further attempts by the same people. Mark my words.

    1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Just don't turn your back on 'em.

      Icann has even suggested they can try again:

      From: https://www.icann.org/resources/board-material/resolutions-2020-04-30-en:

      ICANN entrusted to PIR the responsibility to serve the public interest in its operation of the .ORG registry, and now ICANN is being asked to transfer that trust to a new entity without a public interest mandate. This proposed transaction has posed difficult questions to the ICANN Board and the community, and the totality of the circumstances supports a denial in this instance. If PIR is able to provide additional information that resolves the concerns raised by the Board, PIR remains able to re-submit or initiate a new Change of Control Request.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Just don't turn your back on 'em.

        Gotta leave the door open for those kickbacks...

    2. druck Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Just don't turn your back on 'em.

      Exactly, unless the decision to lift the price cap on .org is reversed, this isn't over.

  7. Dwarf Silver badge

    Time for a change

    At last some common sense. Unfortunately it was not from within their own team on the first couple of days when this came up, so it seems appropriate to change some of that team to make future thinking clearer, quicker and far more transparent for their customers as trust right now does not exist between the rest of the world and them

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's Really Behind This?

    My eye caught the detail in the article about ICANN being made independent of the US Gov back in 2016. What does that really mean? Could it be that pay and pensions now have to be funded by ICANN from whatever revenue it can bring in? I think that's quite likely.

    So what better way to boost the pension coffers than with a nice big juicy sale of an asset?

    Oh and this is the US. I forgot to add healthcare insurance coverage to the list...

    The "in the public interest" sector is very rarely successful in being self funded. Here in the UK there's many a large charity that has a glamourous headquarters buildings, and one sometimes wonders how much of their charitable income actually goes to dealing with whatever problem the charity is supposed to be solving...

    One charity that I do admire, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI. For those that don't know, they run the UK's at-sea lifeboat rescue emergency service on a purely charitable basis), is so demonstrably good at doing their job that I cannot fault them for spending whatever is left over from their (substantial) charitable income on whatever they see fit. Though to call it a job seems too demeaning - the folk who run the boats are all very noble volunteeers. Anyway, my point is that the RNLI has a certain amount to do (there's a finite number of rescues needed per year), they do it very well, and (as I understand it) comfortably within the financial resources they get from charitable income. BTW I'm not an admirer because they've rescued me...

    ICANN could be somewhat similar. It has a defined, limited task, and fulfilling that task really is something for the greater good for the entire world population (and it certainly doesn't involve risking one's neck in a small boat at night on a stormy sea close to rocks). I don't quite know how it's funded at present, but I suspect it is not wholly appropriate for their primary purpose. No doubt others can pass more enlightened comment about their funding sources!

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: What's Really Behind This?

      I live somewhere which has an RNLI lifeboat station (inshore and offshore capacity). The site of cars heading down the hill with lights on and the sign on the dashboard is not unusual. I had a neighbour who was a volunteer. Their building and wharf on the waterfront is hard to miss.

      In that situation their work and parsimony is noticeable. I have not been rescued by them but when I know they have been called out in strong wind, heavy rain and winter dark and cold I cannot help but appreciate their dedication.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: What's Really Behind This?

        I used be a member of Mumbles Yacht Club, and have witnessed the Mumbles lifeboat go out a few times - many of the crew were members of the club.

        I've been on a lifeboat, but fortunately it wasn't a rescue operation!

        Remember in the days before mobile phones, you'd get woken in the night by the sound of the maroons going off?

    2. IT Hack

      Re: What's Really Behind This?

      RNLI...from its foundation to now is just incredible. The people who do the job are even more incredible. I hear some of them say that the day job is what lets them be able to do the rescue.

      I'm not a seafarer by stretch but I do go to the beach often and when I do and there is a RNLI station I tend to slip them a twenty.

      It isn't the heroics that makes me do that but rather the dedication they have that enables them to do the heroics.

    3. Fading Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: What's Really Behind This?

      Just leave this here....

      https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/05/03/rnli-volunteers-sacked-dispute-mugs-adorned-naked-women/

      1. IGotOut Silver badge

        Re: What's Really Behind This?

        @fading

        Yeah and?

        Is it the 1970's? Most places wouldn't allow this and I can't see the issue. Go on, put up a giant poster of your head superimposed on a naked women, stick it up at work and see how long you last.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: What's Really Behind This?

          Or go to church and look at the children painted on the ceiling? Do we need to ban Rembrandt and shred all his non-PC artwork now?

        2. Fading Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: What's Really Behind This?

          I made no comment and did not indicate the direction of any support......

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Some of us were warning about this

      Back when people living outside the US were all excited about ICANN getting out from under the thumb of the US government. All that did was free them from oversight, so their leadership & staff are now able to potentially cut side deals to make themselves rich with less risk of getting caught, or if caught running afoul of the law.

    5. aks Bronze badge

      Re: What's Really Behind This?

      I fully agree with your comments regarding the guys who go out in the boats and the infrastructure that achieves such marvelous results. The top level within the organisation (which operates in the whole of Britain and Ireland) has been criticised in the recent past for using the funds for non-lifesaving purposes. I have no insight into the accuracy or relevance of these criticisms but we do need to separate out the people at the sharp end from the other people in the back office before giving carte-blanche approval.

  9. Whitter
    Mushroom

    Going forward

    Time for a new board.

    'Nuff said.

  10. N2 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Look at me

    Oooh, I'm so big and masterful...

    Er, isn't that your job Popeye? thats what you were supposed to do from the onset of this charade, no need to brag.

    Paris, because anyone else would have acted right away.

  11. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Holmes

    What wasn't said

    The right thing to do to prevent the internal corruption and machinations being made public (Although the majority of denizens here weren't fooled).

    The really shady nature of the proposed 'buyer', hidden below lots of layers of obfuscation should (and did for many) set off alarm bells. Well done to El Reg for the in depth reporting.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Flame

    "I applaud ICANN for stepping fully into their responsibility"

    Sorry, but no applause shall be given to a group of greedy, selfish bastards who dearly hoped to keep the whole thing secret in order to pad their coffers.

    It is nice to know that there are some elements of ICANN who do walk the path of righteousness, and their steadfast courage and willpower should be commended, but the Board in its generality has become a hive of scum and villainy and should be purged with fire, not applauded.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Note to ICANN board: In future, clean house before trying to pull shady shit

      Highly plausible the only reason they did their job properly is to head off being subpoena'd by the Cali AG. More to loose there than gained by allowing the sale.

      Watch for this to be back on again once the shedders have stopped whirring.

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Note to ICANN board: In future, clean house before trying to pull shady shit

        Ooops. Lose. Not loose. The shame! I bow apologetically before the commentariat.

      2. EveryTime

        Re: Note to ICANN board: In future, clean house before trying to pull shady shit

        More to lose than by making the sale?

        This looks more like a strategic retreat so that they can try again later.

        The lure of well over $1B had them repeatedly trying until it was quite clear that there was a chance of going to prison. And even then it was the "... and not getting the money" part that bothered them.

  13. uro

    California AG should open a full investigation into ICANN

    IMO the California AG should open a full investigation into ICANN, it's board members and their outside interests, there's clear conflicts of interest going on here.

    For an organisation that is meant to be open, transparent and non-profit to be actively chartering shady deals like this proposed by EX-CEO's who have insider knowledge of ICANN's operations as akin to insider trading using quickly spun up shell companies - this needs to be fully exposed and investigated.

    ICANN needs to be reset into a proper non-profit organisation with an independently elected board - where members have to be elected every 5 years (including maximum allowable time on the board, say 10 years / 2 terms), ICANN neeeds to have a fully audited and publicised decision making process for each and every transaction they oversee, instead of being the shady closed group that it has turned into.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: California AG should open a full investigation into ICANN

      ICANN needs to be reset into a proper non-profit organisation with an independently elected board - where members have to be elected every 5 years (including maximum allowable time on the board, say 10 years / 2 terms),

      And a maximum to the number of US-citizens/residents, say about 15%.

      1. uro

        Re: California AG should open a full investigation into ICANN

        I wouldn't put a maximum on any specific country, instead they should enact a minimum number of board members per region (NA, SA, EU, Asia, Africa, etc), with something like 2 for each region then the remainder would be wildcards.

        Anyone with any affiliation's to domain registrars / resellers should automatically be non-electable to the ICANN board as they have direct conflict of interest.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: California AG should open a full investigation into ICANN

      Sounds like a good idea, but how would we run the election? Who gets to vote? How do we prevent certain subsets of the voters from being compromised. For example, Nominet of the U.K. registries had a voting system but they changed it so you got one vote per registered address, meaning the massive registrars got effectively all the power. The ICANN election system must be different. Let's get all the details down so that when we reestablish ICANN we don't have to debate any of this and can put these rules in an immutable charter.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DAMN, we were THAT close!

    all went SO well, shell companies within shell companies within shell companies all set up, the people to be greased - greased, those told to look away or else - told. And then come those f... journos...

    ...

    Perhaps not all is lost yet?! Perhaps we can appeal, or try again, next year! Damn, you can't let an honest deal go by just like that!

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: DAMN, we were THAT close!

      Sue-ball from Ethos Capital launching in 3...2...1...

      1. Adair Silver badge

        Re: DAMN, we were THAT close!

        It won't happen. Greed and cowardice often go together. The people behind this do not like the bright light of forensic publicity. They will crawl away and hide in the dark, searching for easier ways to make a dishonest billion.

        1. EveryTime

          Re: DAMN, we were THAT close!

          I agree: if they sue, they open themselves to discovery.

          No doubt they are considering it right now, with the board members in their pocket agreeing to a quiet private settlement. But that runs of the risk of a change in board control undoing the plan and discovery happening. Or the CA attorney general coming around for another look.

          It's better for them to lay low and try again later. Perhaps fewer people will be watching. Perhaps everyone will have gotten used to the idea.

        2. KarMann Bronze badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: DAMN, we were THAT close!

          +1 just for the phrase 'forensic publicity' alone.

  15. tin 2

    WOW

    "The billion-dollar deal set off alarm bells from the very beginning: no one in the domain name industry had ever heard of Ethos Capital, and it only had two named employees. It quickly emerged it had been secretly created by a former CEO of ICANN, and he had registered the company one day after ICANN made clear it was going to lift price caps on the 10 million .org domains, instantly making the registry worth tens of millions more."

    WOW.. wowowowowow. I have no more words. Just wow.

  16. oiseau Silver badge
    Flame

    We'll see this again

    ... the organization is more scared of the California Attorney General than Ethos Capital.

    My thoughts exactly.

    But this must not end here as the only thing that has been achieved was to stop, albeit for an unknown amount of time, the scam these scumbags set up.

    They will try again, and keep trying till they manage to get it pushed through.

    The only way this will get definitively put to rest is through a thorough investigation of what went on and who the intervening parties were.

    This will probably require that California's AG subpoena all documents pertaining to the proposal, both internal ie: ICANN and external ie: related to Ethos Caplital, the shell companies involved and the people who set them up.

    And then, with all this information on the table, act accordingly.

    ie: no more screwing around.

    O.

  17. jlaprise

    Missing the point

    As a former ALAC member and ISOC trustee nominee, I'll point out that the article misses the point. ICANN org is strictly constrained. The ICANN community would cry bloody murder if it tried to make policy. In this case, it listened to the community.

    I'll also point out that ISOC completely and utterly botched this. Surprising ISOC members with this announcement of the sale literally days after an ICANN meeting where nothing about it was said is but one example of the ham handedness and utter incompetence exhibited by the organization in rolling this out. After speaking with ISOC trustees, I get the logic of the transaction from ISOC's POV but it's execution leaves pretty much everything to be desired.

    John Laprise

    1. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      Interesting to get a somewhat insider's view.

      Hypothetically, would an organization that was created specifically to take over the .org domain that had a charter specifying its dedication to keeping to the original intent of .org, and that contained board members from various current .org entities be more palatable to the ISOC?

      It seems that would be the best way forward to stop the principals of Ethos Capital from coming back in some other sheep's clothing.

    2. randomdomainer

      Re: Missing the point

      Didn't ICANN ignore the comments from thousands of interested people to try getting this deal through?

      ICANN ignored the community and it took the intervention of the California AG to stop this Ethos deal. It would seem, based on reading comments from the community across the web, that they are grateful for this action.

    3. Adair Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      In this case, it listened to the community.

      Don't you think that is being extremely charitable with the actualite? The only reason they 'listened' -- after months of ignoring the pleading and cogent arguing from external interested parties -- was because of the threat of immanent disclosure of what was really going on behind the scenes, and who is involved.

      In other words, when push came to shove they suddenly found it expedient to paint on some moral integrity and have the appearance of growing a spine -- while the covert operators all ran for cover.

      It stinks.

    4. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Missing the point

      I'm afraid your comment misses the point more than does the article, and although your comments lead to the same conclusion, they're well off the mark on how each step got there.

      "ICANN org is strictly constrained. The ICANN community would cry bloody murder if it tried to make policy."

      The community was informed because that was required, and the community immediately cried bloody murder. ICANN tried to ignore it, then rationalize it, then downplay it. Even though that didn't work, they soon hid any further comment from the public to try to keep the yelling down. And they eventually released the required document to move the approval process along. You will please note that community pressure against the sale started strongly right at the beginning of this fiasco, and yet ICANN only stopped when under legal pressure.

      And yet, you say "In this case, it listened to the community.". No, they didn't. They didn't at all. They eventually did what the community wanted, for now, but they didn't do it because they listened to us. They tried to ignore us and they would have continued to cheerfully ignore us had we not gotten legal assistance from someone outside the community.

      Your comments about ISOC, though, are completely accurate. They also deserve to be under a blade that neatly sheers off the topmost layers of any organizational chart.

  18. Electronics'R'Us Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Picked up by mainstream press

    But they clearly don't know the whole story.

    Telegraph UK article

  19. Klimt's Beast Would

    Org...

    ...asm interruptus!

    "It just didn't click for me, darling!"

  20. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    one last time

    503C is your friend

    I posted this twice before. I'm pretty sure this is a major reason why this sale did not go through.

    It still applies, so one last time:

    according to IRS regulations, you cannot "turn a non-profit organization into a profit making organization" without first giving (not selling) all assets of the non-profit to another non-profit. not for money, they must be given.

    otherwise anyone could start a 'non-profit' and not pay tax and then when you're ready, just say 'ok i am a regular corporation now, just forget about all the tax i never paid before'.

    if you begin to operate the non-profit profitably using assets acquired or created during the non-profit period, there is a 200% IRS tax penalty.

    self-dealing as a non-profit, where a member of that non-profit makes money off of the non-profit, which benefits the individual at the expense of the non-profit, is a federal tax felony.

    and of course there is the IRS snitch reward program, where if you inform on a tax cheat, you get a percentage (typically 40%) of the fine they pay.

    $1.2 billion x 200% = $2.4 billion

    40% reward = $960 million that the EFF or others could claim if they levy charges of tax fraud (which this most definitely is).

  21. swm Silver badge

    I don't understand. Couldn't the registry be merely a computer in the back room handling requests and mechanically managing the .org database?

    Some human interaction would be needed to handle disputes and fix the hardware though.

    1. Daniel B.

      Yes, but it still has to be owned by some entity. And running the computer in the back room has its own upkeep, even if you never ever upgraded it.

  22. Daniel B.
    Angel

    Good.

    I was shitting bricks over this, as I was going to have to spend a lot in getting a 5 year renewal (or more if possible) of my existing .org domain to give me at least some breathing space and see if I could migrate away from that TLD. I chose to make my main domain a .org precisely because it was less likely to get price gouged at all. Fortunately, this scam was stopped.

  23. Sirius Lee

    Surely only temporary relief

    Surely this is evidence ICAAN needs to relocate itself to a more forgiving jurisdiction then start again. This episode seems to show the leaders of ICAAN have an agenda. Without leadership change, the team is surely still motivated to find a way to complete deals like this.

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