[registration-issues-wg] [CPWG] [GTLD-WG] Fwd: Re: Fwd: ISOC sells PIR

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Tue Nov 19 09:57:30 UTC 2019


On Mon, 18 Nov 2019 at 09:16, Hadia Abdelsalam Mokhtar EL miniawi <
Hadia at tra.gov.eg> wrote:

> I would certainly assume that ISOC got a very decent amount of money from
> Ethos for the deal to go forward. At this point I would assume that ISOC
> has insured its way forward. However, what is still to be seen is the
> effect on the .org prices, hopefully going forward they would have special
> prices for non profits.


Two factors come to mind in considering the long term effects of the sale,
over and above the financial-stability component of which we are all aware.
Consider:


*The substance:*

PIR was more than just an ISOC asset. The Internet Society was custodian of
the only global top-level domain that was, by nature and its very name,
acting in the public interest. In a sea of TLD sharks, dot-org could be
seen as a body that brought both financial stability to ISOC and social
responsibility among the registries. Its size and nonprofit status would
keep costs down and corporate direction serving a social mission. Its
competitive presence could tamp down the excesses of the industry.

And now that's gone. More important than the divestment of PIR is its
change from nonprofit to Just Another Shareholder-Value-Maximizing part of
the domain ecosystem, its uniqueness vanished in an instant. In the aim of
maximizing its own revenue ISOC has eliminated from the the Internet the
only publicly-accessible nonprofit gTLD. Gone is this substantial voice of
public-interest sanity within the registry community, replaced by an entity
barely more ethically motivated than Donuts. As a dot-org "owner", this
hurts personally. But as someone trying to advance Internet domains as a
component of progress, this hurts on a global scale.

Stewardship of a socially-motivated registry was one of ISOC's core global
functions IMO. With that gone, so is part of ISOC's value.


*The process:*

The path that led to the divestment of PIR, both before and after the
decision had been made, has laid bare a core ISOC culture that is the
opposite of the openness it asks the world to embrace. At a level of fiscal
responsibility, ISOC's action was exactly what one would expect any
for-profit entity to do. Maximize benefit through a secretive process that
catches everyone unaware -- not just of the transaction but of the urgency
to do it,

Except ISOC is not a for-profit entity. It displays itself to the world as
a community body that encourages involvement at a personal, regional,
institutional or national scale. It has carefully crafted and evolved a
Chapters Advisory Council explicitly designed to provide management with
the view from the grassroots, alongside a parallel Council for corporate
participants. This was combined with global virtual events such as
InterCommunity that were created to give ISOC a global awareness of what
was needed to promote a more-open Internet. And it has always had an
individual-membership program, which isn't really talked about these days
as these "members" have neither any costs nor any benefits.

None of these mechanisms were employed, none of these entities consulted,
before or after the decision, even under NDA. The community wasn't even
aware that PIR was being shopped around. As a result, there was no open
solicitation, no publicly-competitive process, no opportunity for any other
firm to make a counter-offer that might keep PIR nonprofit. We'll never
know. Or maybe it wasn't shopped around and someone just made ISOC an offer
it couldn't refuse. But ISOC isn't Jack Woltz. The community had no idea of
any sense of urgency to sell PIR, and certainly was never consulted about
the ethics or consequences of turning PIR for-profit. The common nonprofit
practice of having major decisions ratified by stakeholders at an AGM is
also nowhere in sight.

So now we know the reality of ISOC's corporate culture. Promote openness
and consultation when convenient, but be opaque when it matters.


I don't know if ISOC considers me a stakeholder, or for that matter anyone
else on this list, any Chapter or any Organization Member. In fact right
now I have no idea who ISOC considers its stakeholders to be; it certainly
didn't consult any before the fact or ask for any blessings afterwards. Not
even informally. So who shows up at the AGM? Just the Trustees?

In any case, the deal is essentially done. ISOC clearly appears to have
assured its financial stability, which is certainly a Good Thing. But with
a crown jewel of the Internet fading away and the shallowness of its
commitment to openness and community exposed in the process, it is
legitimate to ask whether ISOC has sold more than a registry.

We won't know the answer to that for a while
- Evan
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