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Internet pioneers revolt over privatisation of .org

by on13 January 2020

Arranging some competition

Reuters reports that a group of "prominent internet pioneers" now has a plan to block the $1.1 billion sale of the .org internet domain registry to Ethos Capital.

The group has created their own nonprofit cooperative to offer an alternative.

Katherine Maher, the CEO of Wikipedia parent Wikimedia Foundation, who signed on to be a director of the new non-profit said: "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.”

Hundreds of nonprofits have already objected to the transaction, worried that Ethos will raise registration and renewal prices, cut back on infrastructure and security spending, or make deals to sell sensitive data or allow censorship or surveillance.

Andrew McLaughlin, who oversaw the transfer of internet governance from the US Commerce Department to ICANN in 2016 said that what offended him about the Ethos Capital deal and the way it unfolded is that it seems to have completely betrayed this concept of stewardship.

Maher and others said the idea of the new cooperative is not to offer a competing financial bid for .org, which brings in roughly $100 million in revenue from domain sales.

Instead, they hope that the unusual new entity, formally a California Consumer Cooperative Corporation, can manage the domain for security and stability and make sure it does not become a tool for censorship.

The advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which previously organised a protest over the .org sale that drew in organizations including the YMCA of the United States, Greenpeace, and Consumer Reports, is supporting the cooperative.

EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn said: "It's highly inappropriate for it to be turned over to a commercial venture at all, much less one that's going to need to recover $1 billion."


Last modified on 13 January 2020
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