I’ve been sent an email written by Andrew Sullivan. Andrew is CEO of the Internet Society, the group that decided to sell .org to a private equity firm earlier this month. He sent the email to the ISOC InternetPolicy email list on Saturday morning, the day after the #SaveDotOrg campaign was launched by NTEN and 24 other nonprofits.
The email explains why Andrew sold .ORG to a private equity firm. It also gives some background. Before we begin, let me be clear that I am not out to damage Andrew’s reputation or character with this rebuttal.
I think this was a mistake. We all make mistakes. I know I certainly do. What matters is not the mistake, it’s what you do next. The way to put this right is to act consistently with the stated values of the Internet Society. Ethos Capital CEO Erik Brooks and Andrew Sullivan simply need to announce an open and independent public consultation on the future of .ORG.
What matters is not the mistake,
it’s what you do next.
With that said, let’s see if this works. Andrew’s email is below. My counter-arguments are posted as responses, scroll down to read them. I highlighted wherever I wrote a response.
Note: this is a work in progress. Feedback and additional comments welcome!
Reply to: vinton cerf <snip>
Date: Saturday, 23 November 2019 at 10:16 am
To: Andrew Sullivan <snip>
Cc: ISOC Internet Policy <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [Internet Policy] What this is for (was Re: The ISOC-PIR-Ethos discussion)
On Sat, Nov 23, 2019, 04:04 Andrew Sullivan via InternetPolicy <email@example.com> wrote:
On Sat, Nov 23, 2019 at 08:40:09AM +0100, Augustine CHII Ngek via InternetPolicy wrote:
> I have said in this forum that this deal just reminded us chapters that we
> have little to do in the day to day running of ISOC but we are the ones
> building the roots of ISOC all over.
It makes me sad to hear this, because in truth a significant part of
this deal is an attempt to make sure that the good work of the
chapters — along with all the other work of the Internet Society —
can be supported in perpetuity.
Today, we have a source of income from a single company in a single
industry that is undergoing significant change in the market. We
might believe that the domain name industry, and indeed PIR, will
continue to deliver modestly-rising income in perpetuity, but there is
considerable risk in assuming that in any industry — and especially
any one company in any industry — will deliver that.
It is better to have a diverse source of income from many companies in many different industries, because that protects your income from any single failure. Achieving such an income basis ensures that all the things the
Internet Society does can continue effectively forever.
We can be sure that our efforts to build, promote, and defend the Internet can withstand all the attacks on the Internet that we are seeing today. We can continue the support of Chapterthons and Chapter Admin support. We can ensure that Beyond the Net is funded so that we continue to support innovation created and driven by chapters.
We can continue to support efforts to connect the world’s remaining unconnected, and to promote the technologies that make the Internet safer and more secure for all people the world over. That is what this decision provides.
But in my judgement, these benefits could not have come to us if we
had attempted to undertake this negotiation in public, and that
includes discussing whether it was a good idea to undertake this
transaction at all.
I believe that because an enormous amount of information about the transaction — how much it is worth, what would likely happen to PIR, what the business strategy of the buyer seemed to be, and so on — would be necessary in order to answer the question, unless one simply believes that this is a company that cannot be sold.
I am prepared to accept that some people think this transaction would
not be ok in any case. I will not, in that case, be able to convince
them that my decision was ok. But it is not true this effort was
dismissive of chapters. It is intended to make sure that we always
have the funds in order to ensure our support of the chapters.
To do that, I had to exercise my professional judgement to proceed without
consulting the community. It isn’t my natural inclination, normally,
to do that, but I will when I think my service to the community will
I believed that in this case, in September, when we were
approached, and I still believe it today. The benefits to the
Internet, and the Internet Society, were too great for me to think
turning this away would be a good idea.
President & CEO, Internet Society