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Sale of .org to private equity firm is a ‘travesty’ says inventor of internet

By Charlotte Ricca

Tim Berners-Lee says sale needs an ‘urgent explanation’

Sale of .org to private equity firm is a travesty says inventor of internet

Tim Berners-Lee has joined the thousands speaking out against the sale of the .org domain to a private equity firm.

Berners-Lee has said the sale to Ethos, a new established private equity firm, is a “travesty”.

Ethos, which was founded in May 2019, is expected to close its deal to acquire the Public Interest Registry (PIR) during the first quarter of 2020.

Based in Virginia, PIR is a not-for-profit organisation created by the Internet Society in 2002. There are currently around 10 million .org companies, many of which are non-profit groups.

As its name suggests, PIR serves the public interest online, something which Ethos has promised to uphold, saying it is "committed to keeping .org accessible and reasonably priced for all." However, Berners-Lee has expressed concern.

"I'm very concerned about the sale of .org to a private company," Berners-Lee tweeted. "If the Public Interest Registry ends up not being required to act in the public interest, it would be a travesty. We need an urgent explanation."

A petition calling for a block to the deal has attracted 8,900 signatures to date from non-profits who believe it could result in an increase in domain prices and censorship.

The current price of a .org domain name is approximately $10 per year and Ethos has said it will continue to be one of the most affordable domain names on the market.

“Our plan is to live within the spirit of historic practice when it comes to pricing, which means, potentially, annual price increases of up to 10 per cent on average – which today would equate to approximately $1 per year,” says a Q&A on the .org website.

This isn’t the first time PIS has been bought by a for-profit company, as it was owned by Verisign from 1993 to 2002, when it was handed over to PIR.

FURTHER READING: Web founder Berners-Lee launches scheme to ‘fix’ the internet

FURTHER READING: Softbank to create $30bn tech giant with new merger

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