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The Uncertain Future of the .ORG Domain

As we look ahead to 2020, many nonprofits are turning their attention to their domain name. The nonprofit organization that manages the .ORG domain registry is set to be acquired by a private equity firm – a move that would turn over a part of the internet typically used by nonprofits to a for-profit enterprise.

To make matters worse, the price cap on .ORG domains was eliminated this year by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) despite significant pushback. This means that the for-profit entity set to acquire the .ORG registry has the power to raise prices on .ORG domains. Many nonprofits are worried that the cost of their sites could skyrocket in 2020.

And they are right to worry. According to the National Council of Nonprofits, “the proposed sale would put the rights to more than 10 million domains in the hands of venture capitalists, who – without the longstanding cost controls in place to protect nonprofits – could take more than $750 million dollars from nonprofit missions.”

What Now?  

The good news is that the sale is not set to close until the first quarter of 2020 – so nothing’s final yet. And the move is being forcefully opposed by the nonprofit community. A coalition of 27 high-profile non-profits, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), National Council of Nonprofits, YMCA, Free Software Foundation (FSF), Girls Scouts of the USA, Internet Archive, and Wikimedia Foundation, have signed a letter to ICANN urging it to stop the sale and launched a petition site that has over 16,000 supporters. The letter warns that the sale could “do significant harm to the global NGO sector,” and that Ethos Capital (the for-profit entity) “has not earned the trust of the NGO community.”

What Should Nonprofits Do to Protect Themselves?

Since the sale does not become final until the first quarter of 2020, nonprofits have a few months to register their .ORG domains for up to ten years out in order to lock in current prices. To take steps to protect the entire nonprofit community, you can sign the National Council of Nonprofits petition here to show your support for the opposition of the sale. And lastly, share this news with your colleagues who handle your websites and urge them to get engaged.

Byrne Pelofsky will be following this story and will report on developments as they arise.


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