Ethos, the private equity firm owned by Republican billionaires that is trying to buy the rights to operate the internet's .org domain range, said on Friday it will cap price hikes, and will agree to create an advisory board with veto powers to partly address some of the concerns of the nonprofit community.
Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow and Jason Weisberger wrote previously about this story on Boing Boing, for those catching up:
• ICANN hits pause on the sale of .ORG to Republican billionaires' private equity fund [12/2019]
• We need to save .ORG from arbitrary censorship by halting the private equity buy-out [12/2019]
• Private equity take-over of .ORG domain delayed [1/2020]
Here's what happened today, from AP:
Ethos Capital has offered $1.1 billion to buy the Public Interest Registry, the nonprofit corporation that runs the databases containing more than 10 million .org names registered worldwide. Organizations ranging from the Girl Scouts of the USA and Consumer Reports to the American Bible Society have opposed the sale, warning of potential price gouging and censorship. California's attorney general has also requested information to evaluate a deal's potential impact to nonprofits.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the concessions are enough to satisfy critics. The cap on price hikes, for instance, will expire in eight years, and most of the advisory board's initial members will be appointed by the Public Interest Registry's board.
Domain names such as apnews.com have historically been used by computers to find websites and send email, and their value grew as companies and groups adopted them for branding. The Associated Press, a nonprofit, also uses a .org domain, ap.org. Though domain names are less prominent these days as more people reach websites using search engines and apps, they are still important for email addresses, billboards and other non-digital advertising.
The Public Interest Registry is currently owned by the Internet Society, a nonprofit founded by many of the internet's early engineers and scientists. In that role, the registry collects annual fees of about $10 per .org registration. The Internet Society uses some of that revenue to fund advocacy and administrative programs, which include creating technical standards for the internet.
And from Twitter, more below.
— Internet Society (@internetsociety) February 21, 2020
Ethos announces legally-binding public interest commitments that enforce price limits on .ORG and codify strong safeguards against censorship of free expression and use of personal data.https://t.co/Z1wAjnv91B
— Public Interest Reg. (@PIRegistry) February 21, 2020