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.org price anger comments top 3,000 as non-profits weigh in

Kevin Murphy, April 29, 2019, 16:29:40 (UTC), Domain Registries

The proposal to remove price caps from .org domains has now attracted more than 3,000 angry comments, and it’s not just domainers who are feeling the outrage.

Non-profit groups have now also submitted objections to the ICANN proposal, which would remove the 10%-a-year price increase limit that Public Interest Registry is currently subject to.

At least two organizations, which together claim to represent over 32,000 non-profits, have rejected the pricing plan since I first posted about it last week.

The National Council of Nonprofits is a support network for around 25,000 organizations in the US.

Its VP of public policy, David Thompson, told ICANN that price increases in .org would funnel money to PIR away from worthy causes:

Quite literally, the profits derived by this unwarranted change will ultimately be paid by the people nonprofits will not be able to serve. Every $1 in increased prices on the 10+ million .org domain users would generate more revenue each year than is utilized by all but the top one-percent of charitable nonprofits. Each one-dollar hike in costs per domain would divert more than $10 million from nonprofit missions for the enrichment of the monopoly. By anyone’s estimate, this money would be better spent delivering an additional 1,600,000 meals by Meals on Wheels to seniors to help maintain their health, independence and quality of life. Or $10 million could enable nonprofits to provide vision screenings for every two- and three-year-olds in California. Or pay for one million middle school students to attend performances of “Hamilton” or “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Nonprofits should not need to choose between paying for a domain name and helping people.

He said that ICANN should not treat .org the same way as commercial domain registries simply in order to normalize its registry agreements, when .org has a public-interest purpose.

It’s probably worth noting that even under the existing 10% price increase limit, PIR would be able to raise its prices by almost $1 in the first year anyway.

The American Society of Association Executives is a trade association that represents trade associations in the US. It says it has 44,000 individual members from 7,400 organizations.

Its president, John Graham, told ICANN that .org, as a legacy gTLD that PIR spent no money to acquire, should not have the same pricing flexibility as gTLDs that have gone live more recently:

It’s true that registry operators that won the right to sponsor new gTLDs can charge whatever price they see fit, but they also paid millions of dollars in some cases to acquire all of the value in their sponsored domain names, whereas the service contractors managing legacy domain names most assuredly did not. This is a crucial difference that ICANN should take great care to enforce.

Stating that nonprofit organizations can easily switch from one domain name to another if they don’t like the pricing structure ignores the reality that established nonprofits have a longstanding Internet presence built on a .org domain name — a name and online reputation that the organization (not the registry operator) has spent decades cultivating.

Ayden Férdeline, who sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial interests commented in his personal capacity to say that while he does not necessarily expect PIR to exploit the customers of its 10 million .org domains:

To exploit these organizations and to have them paying substantially more every year to maintain their domain names would have a detrimental impact on the public’s ability to obtain information and services, and could see smaller non-profit organizations either stop renewing their domain names altogether or moving away from the Domain Name System to proprietary platforms like Facebook.

These were some of the most significant voices from outside the domain investment community that I’ve been able to find from my trawl of the 3,105 comments that had been submitted as of time of writing.

At least 700 of these comments, likely hundreds more, were filed via a form-letter submission tool created by the Internet Commerce Association. Others seem to have been inspired by coverage in the domainer blogosphere and on social media platforms.

Please let me know in the comments or privately if you’ve seen any comments opposing or supporting the price increases from any other major non-domainer organizations.

Of the larger domainers, I spotted that Nat Cohen of Telepathy echoed the views of many, writing:

The legacy domain names, including .info and .org, were handed over to ICANN as trustee to manage for the public benefit. ICANN has betrayed that trust by turning .org over to an organization, that no matter how worthy its mission, will have the unchecked ability to extract vast sums from the base of .org registrants, many of which are non-profits with worthy missions in their own right.

The public comment period ends tonight at midnight UTC. That’s about seven hours from the timestamp on this post.

PIR declined to comment for this article.

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Comments (5)

  1. DomainBoss says:

    Public Interest Registry should change it’s name to:

    Public Rape Registry

  2. Thank you for updating your reporting on this important issue to reflect the fact that there are significant voices from the nonprofit organizational community which have expressed their opposition to and frustration with ICANN’s proposed renewal agreement.

    From my review of hundreds of comments, it is clear that the vast majority were submitted by .org registrants with no connection to the domainer community.

    The consequences of adopting the misguided proposal to eliminate price protections for .org registrants has been extensively covered, reaching a global audience, through sources including direct outreach to their membership from the nonprofit organizations that you mentioned, as well as from coverage by widely read media outlets including the BBC, Reddit, Slashdot, Twitter, CircleID, and many others.

    The statement in your article that, “the vast majority of these comments have been filed as a result of coverage in the domainer blogosphere” appears to be inaccurate.

    The registrar, NameCheap, alerted its customers with .org domain names that they were vulnerable to uncapped price increases due to the terms proposed by ICANN for the .org agreement renewal. NameCheap included information about a helpful and user-friendly online tool that the ICA provided to assist the general public with submitting comments to ICANN.

    Contrary to the impression offered by your article, those using the ICA tool for the most part have no connection to the ICA or to the domain industry, but represent a broad cross-section of .org registrants who wished to make their views known to ICANN. This includes environmental organizations, charities, academics, families, churches, youth organizations, and many, many others.

    Any fair-minded review of the comments submitted to-date, demonstrates that the outrage expressed comes not primarily from those involved in the domain industry, but from those among the the millions of individuals and associations who use and rely upon .org domain names.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      I agree that the statement “vast majority” is probably over-stating the amount of ICA-related posts. I’ll update that paragraph for clarity. Thanks.

  3. Snoopy says:

    This is nothing like new tlds. Organisations did not sign up for unrestricted price increases. Icann must step up to the plate and protect the rights of registrants.

    Can you imagine the damage to small organisations facing huge price increases? The registry position is something of a monopoly because the real world switching costs are so high.

  4. Hopefully these 3000 comments, most of which are from non-domainers as pointed out, will help steer this titanic of an idea in the right direction.

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