In November 2019, The Internet Society and Public Interest Registry (PIR), based in Reston, VA, announced that they have reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, under which Ethos Capital would acquire PIR and all of its assets from the Internet Society. The transaction is expected to close during the first quarter of 2020.
“This is an important and exciting development for both the Internet Society and Public Interest Registry,” said Andrew Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Internet Society, the organization that established Public Interest Registry. “This transaction will provide the Internet Society with an endowment of sustainable funding and the resources to advance our mission on a broader scale as we continue our work to make the Internet more open, accessible and secure – for everyone. It also aligns Public Interest Registry with Ethos Capital, a strong strategic partner that understands the intricacies of the domain industry and has the expertise, experience and shared values to further advance the goals of .ORG into the future.”
The New York Times reports that Ethos Capital would own not “just any piece of digital property. It was dot-org, the cyber neighborhood that is home to big nonprofits and nongovernmental organizations like the United Nations (un.org) and NPR (npr.org), and to little ones like neighborhood clubs.
“The deal was met with a fierce backlash. Critics argued that a less commercial corner of the internet should not be controlled by a profit-driven private equity firm, as a matter of both principle and practice. Online petitions and letters of concern came from hundreds of organizations, thousands of individuals and four Democrats in Congress, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.”
In buying the Public Interest Registry, continued the Times story, Ethos Capital “would acquire the rights to run dot-org and collect annual fees from the nearly 10.5 million registered dot-org names, held by both nonprofits and domain-name speculators. Those yearly fees are $10 to $20 on average, but can be far higher for big sites that buy several names to protect their brand and get added services like security against online attacks.
“Opponents of the private-equity sale said they feared that to make an attractive profit on its pricey deal, Ethos Capital would have to raise prices, cut expenses, skimp on service — and most likely sell users’ data.
“Ethos Capital said those concerns were unfounded.”