New Co-Op Aims to Take Over .Org Registry Operations

With founding ICANN leadership on board along with the CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, a new nonprofit cooperative aims to convince ICANN to let it manage the .org domain instead of a private-equity firm.

The recent debate over the announced sale of the .org top-level domain to a private-equity firm has led a number of prominent figures in the world of digital nonprofits to offer up an alternative solution.

This week, the group—which includes Esther Dyson, the founding chairwoman of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—announced its efforts to create a co-op that would replace the existing organization structure for the management of .org. The Cooperative Corporation of .ORG Registrants, a nonprofit incorporated this week in California, wants to both stop the sale of .org to Ethos Capital and convince ICANN to let it manage the top-level domain instead.

“This is a better alternative,” Dyson, one of seven directors of the new group, told The New York Times this week. “If you’re owned by private equity, your incentive is to make a profit. Our incentive is to serve and protect nonprofits and the public.”

Beyond Dyson, the new group has the support of the organization that runs the largest .org website, the Wikimedia Foundation, whose CEO, Katherine Maher, will also serve as a director.

“There needs to be a place on the internet that represents the public interest, where educational sites, humanitarian sites, and organizations like Wikipedia can provide a broader public benefit,” Maher told Reuters.

(Also among the new group’s founding directors, per Reuters, are ICANN’s founding president Michael Roberts; Jeff Ubois of the MacArthur Foundation; and Bill Woodcock of the Packet Clearing House, which manages technical aspects of the domain system.)

The new organization, which has also gained early support from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, comes less than a month after ICANN delayed the attempt to sell the Public Interest Registry (PIR), which is managed by the Internet Society, and asked for more information about the sale.

The deal is controversial in part because it’s believed that Ethos Capital could raise prices for nonprofit domain owners. Groups in the association and nonprofit space, including ASAE, have also spoken up about the efforts; ASAE has asked federal officials to step in to block the sale.

For its part, the Internet Society said this week that it is looking to sell its stake in PIR in part because its goals are beyond its current mission.

“We need to focus on the goals we have—to make the Internet available to the people who don’t have it, and to make sure the Internet is defended against its attackers,” the society said in its statement to Reuters and the Times.

(MicroStockHub/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!