The Public Interest Registry (PIR), a nonprofit organization that maintains the .org domain registry, was agreed to be purchased last month by tech-focused private equity firm, Ethos Capital. The domain name .org is one of the original domains established in 1985—along with .com, .us, .gov and .net—and has been operated by PIR since 2003.
How Are .Org Domains Managed?
In 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization, chartered by the government, was tasked with organizing domain names. ICANN awarded the contract for .orgs to PIR. The .org domain was intended to be used exclusively by nonprofits. For more than a decade, prices for .org domains were capped at $10 per year to ensure affordability for nonprofit organizations that rely on low costs of purchasing and maintaining .org websites.
Will .Org Prices Go Up?
This past June, ICANN removed the price caps on the .org domain names allowing for the .org domain names to appreciate in value, the same way a .com domains do. ICANN maintains it wants uniformity with other domains that do not have price limits.
PIR currently has more than 10 million .org domain names registered, and the upcoming acquisition of PIR by Ethos, a for-profit business, could allow .org domains to be sold and traded for profit. Ethos’s CEO, Erik Brooks, said, “Ethos is committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years. Additionally, the company will continue PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly and without interruption.”
Opponents to the purchase believe the .org domain was set up with the specific goal of utilizing the internet for noncommercial use, and their concern with Ethos at the helm is that some transparency and accountability may be lost. Additionally, nonprofit organizations are concerned that the sale of .org may significantly increase their operating costs if registration fees rise. A webpage, savedotorg.org, was created with a petition of more than 12,000 opponents’ signatures.
What Could The Purchase Of .Org Mean For The Future Of Nonprofit Marketers?
What Ethos is planning for the future of the .org domain names and what the change in ownership will mean for nonprofit organizations has yet to be determined. Nonprofit marketers should watch the news closely while working to protect their organizations from potential price increases, in part by proactively securing their brand names across other domain extensions, like .com, .ngo or .ong.
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