On November 10, 2019 the Internet Society Trustees voted to sell the dot-org domain to a private equity firm. The minutes show that the motion passed unanimously. So far only Richard Barnes and Mike Godwin have publicly explained why they voted to sell dot-org. A joint statement from the Board of Trustees has also been published.
Since the announcement of the sale, the status of which is currently unknown, over 655 organizations and 20,857 people have signed a petition calling for it to be stopped. Despite the loose registration criteria for dot-org, the public understands that dot-org’s nonprofits are the most affected and most well known user group within this unique domain.
Indeed, the Cambridge dictionary defines the word “org” as a noun meaning “used at the end of internet addresses to show that the address belongs to a group or company that is not established to make a profit.”
Valid concerns about the sale, including issues around governance, mission alignment, privacy, digital rights, human rights, pricing, security, and stability have all been raised. There has been broad and deep media coverage of the issue since the Trustees’ vote.
Each Internet Society Trustee has an obligation to explain why they think the sale of the dot-org domain to Ethos is in the global public interest. Not only is it in their interest, but it is in the interest of all those involved, given the way the decision was made and the issues at stake.
As each voted for the sale, these Trustees are the most appropriate individuals to justify it to the many nonprofits who have concerns. Here is a summary of their backgrounds and links to their bios on the Internet Society website:
Walid Al-Saqaf is an academic who specializes in the use of the Internet for journalism, access to information, freedom of expression and public good.
Richard Barnes is an IETF appointee, is Chief Security Architect for Collaboration at Cisco Systems, and was previously in charge of Firefox security for Mozilla. His rationale for selling dot-org is here.
Gonzalo Camarillo is Chair of the ISOC Board and is Head of Data/IT standardization at Ericsson.
Olga Cavalli is known in the ICANN community for her robust efforts to fight for the AMAZON and PATAGONIA domains. She has been one of the strongest advocates for special rights and protections for users of domain endings, and for those impacted by how they are run.
Hans Peter Dittler was one of the founding members of the organization that set up what is now the second largest domain on the Internet .DE, as a non-profit co-op.
Mike Godwin used to work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Wikimedia Foundation, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. Of all of the ISOC Board members, he is best placed to respond to the opposition to the sale from his former employers. His rationale for selling dot-org is here.
Mieke van Heesewijk works at the Netherlands Domain Registration Foundation, founded a platform for democratic innovation — Network Democracy — and is on the board of the Dutch whistleblowing platform Publeaks.
John Levine runs an anti-online-abuse organization and has been involved with fighting for user rights at ICANN At Large.
Glenn McKnight has nonprofit experience and was Chair of the ICANN At-large committee.
Robert Pepper participated in the working group that led to the privatization of the Internet from the National Science Foundation, and is now at Facebook.
Sean Turner is an Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) appointee, with an extensive technical background.
I’ll update this article as the Trustees explain why they voted to sell dot-org.
Each Trustee has the opportunity to discuss how they feel that the sale will benefit the nonprofit world and the Internet non-commercial community at large.
They can address the concerns that have been raised in the petition letter, those of the UN Special Rapporteur, those of Congress, any of my concerns, or others they feel have been raised but not given enough profile.
It should be made clear that I oppose the sale, and believe it should be halted in its current form until a full, open and transparent process can take place. I know this is possible, and I know it can be structured in a way that isn’t simply a delay tactic, but is a fulsome exploration of what is best for all stakeholders.
I urge patience on the part of Ethos while this process unfolds. I know it isn’t easy. It took years for dot-eco to come to fruition. I regretted the delays at ICANN, but I never regretted working with the environmental community to get dot-eco right. Neither will you.
I look forward to all of the ISOC Trustees joining this conversation in the spirit of open and constructive dialogue on the future of dot-org.