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A Stronger PIR and .ORG: Standing Behind Our Commitments

We respect the right of all parties who wish to express a point of view on the Internet Society’s sale of Public Interest Registry (“PIR”) to Ethos Capital. However, it’s important those views are based on facts—which has not always been the case. Some have expressed concern that for-profit ownership of .ORG will automatically mean .ORG prices will rise dramatically, or that .ORG’s principles will change. Ethos, PIR and the Internet Society have listened carefully and responded to questions that have been raised, and have made a concerted effort to allay those fears through actionable steps and commitments.

As the Chief Purpose Officer of Ethos, I am dedicated to ensuring that we do right by all stakeholders, and so I am especially grateful that we have already had many opportunities to engage with .ORG users. Our openness and willingness to communicate as much as we have is an unprecedented step that has never been taken in other filings regarding a change in indirect control of a registry, as is the case here. These discussions have generated great ideas for how we can work together to best support the .ORG domain going forward. That said, given the ongoing discussions taking place, I want to set the record straight about false information and unfounded speculation that is still being circulated.

Free Speech

Concerns have been raised that, as a private company, PIR would “take down content it doesn’t like.” This notion is baseless and, frankly, a demonstration of the type of speculation that has taken the discussion surrounding the future of .ORG irresponsibly out of context. I want to make it clear that Ethos and PIR take freedom of expression very seriously, and the registry’s commitment to free speech will continue unabated. The new PIR Stewardship Council under formation will ratify strong rules protecting freedom of expression and safeguarding against censorship.


Shortly after announcement of the sale, speculators that warehouse .ORG and other domain names, with the aim of selling them later for huge profits, fueled rumors of potentially extreme price increases. What any relatively modest increase would mean for a nonprofit organization holding a single registration, would, of course, mean something entirely and substantially different for a speculator holding tens of thousands of domain names.

We responded to these unfounded claims by providing clear guidance on PIR’s plans with respect to maintaining reasonable pricing and affordability: Ethos will maintain PIR’s historical practices on pricing. We committed to limiting any potential increase in the price of a .ORG domain registration to no more than 10% per year on average, even though today there are no regulatory pricing constraints on PIR or virtually any other domain name registry. At less than $10 today, .ORG is one of the most affordable domains in the world, and a 10% increase would equate to about $1. As such, .ORG will continue to be one of the most affordable domain names to use.

These pricing commitments will be embodied in our governing documents and provide assurance that we stand by our promise.

Service Levels

There have recently been claims that .ORG could somehow suffer DNS outages in the event of a transfer to a for-profit entity. This is completely false. The idea seems to have originated from Packet Clearing House (PCH), which claims to run all of the technical aspects of the .ORG system. In reality, as Afilias so eloquently stated, it is Afilias—and not PCH—that is PIR’s backend provider and responsible for ensuring that .ORG names remain available 100% of the time, which it has done with an exemplary record. Suzanne Woolf, PIR’s Senior Director of Technical Community Engagement, and Joe Abley, PIR’s Chief Technology Officer, also recently addressed this misconception in a blog post, clearly stating that PCH’s claims are false.

It is important to remember that we are talking about an indirect change of ownership—PIR will continue to operate the .ORG registry in the same way, and with the same services, as it does today.

Accountability in Our Commitments

Our commitment to being a responsible steward of PIR is paramount. We are the first to recognize that actions speak louder than words, which is why we have developed mechanisms to implement our commitments. These include:

  • Anchoring PIR in a Public Benefit LLC structure, which will enshrine the mission of PIR in governing documents. In fact, today we will be publishing the key points contained in the parent company certificate of formation, which includes the commitment not to permit any increase in annual domain name registration or renewal prices for .ORG by more than 10% on average: https://www.keypointsabout.org;
  • Establishing the PIR Stewardship Council, which will be an independent and transparent body that will serve as a resource for both PIR and .ORG registrants, within 90 days of the transaction closing. Once established, the Council will seek input from .ORG registrants to convey advice and recommendations to PIR’s leadership on key matters;
  • Creating a Community Enablement Fund that will invest in initiatives serving .ORG users and benefiting PIR’s educational and outreach efforts around the world. The Fund will be overseen by the Stewardship Council, and it will be substantially larger than what PIR has been able to invest today; and
  • As noted above, continuing PIR’s commitments to uphold freedom of expression and human rights more broadly, including empowering the Stewardship Council to ratify strong rules protecting freedom of expression and safeguarding against censorship.

A For-Profit Entity Can Run .ORG

Contrary to the view that only a nonprofit can support another nonprofit, .ORG was formerly operated by a for-profit company (VeriSign). And nonprofits rely on for-profit businesses every day to achieve their online goals—from web designers, to Internet providers, to hosting services, and beyond.

So let’s focus on the facts. We stand by our commitments and remain guided by our ultimate mission of ensuring that the registry remains secure, reliable, and stable. Let’s encourage a healthy meeting of the minds and focus on building an even stronger PIR and .ORG together.

By Nora Abusitta-Ouri, Chief Purpose Officer at Ethos Capital

Nora Abusitta-Ouri is the Chief Purpose Officer at Ethos Capital, where she oversees the development and execution of social impact and ethics initiatives for the firm and the companies in which it invests. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Digital Ethos Foundation, a global nonprofit committed to fostering a trustworthy, just and peaceful digital world.

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.ORG pricing John Poole  –  Jan 15, 2020 2:14 AM

Nora, how do you reconcile your proposal for 10% per annum compounded price increases—doubling the price of .ORG domain names every seven (7.2) years—with the following:

“The policy for the operation of the .org registry required inter alia that (i) the registry be “operated for the benefit of the worldwide community of organizations, groups, and individuals engaged in noncommercial communication via the Internet”, (ii) responsibility for the .org administration be “delegated to a non-profit organization that has widespread support from and acts on behalf of that community”, and (iii) registry fee charged to accredited registrars be “as low as feasible consistent with the maintenance of good quality service”. The DNSO’s policy on the reassignment and administration of the .ORG registry has never been amended nor revoked.”—Namecheap reconsideration p. 9 citing ICANN,  Report   of the Dot Org Task Force Adopted by the DNSO Names Council 17 January 2002 and accepted as guidance by the ICANN Board on 14 March 2002.

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