Sale of internet's dot-org suffix nixed after protests

NEW YORK (AP) — After widespread opposition, the organization overseeing internet domain names has voted against the $1.1 billion sale of the dot-org online registry to an investment firm.

The board of the Los Angeles-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers voted late Thursday not to allow the sale to Ethos Capital of the website suffix that is widely used by non-profits and community groups.

Activists, politicians and hundreds of organizations had protested that costs for non-profits would rise and freedom of expression would be at risk if a for-profit company were in charge of dot-org, one of the original domains created in the mid-1980s.

Vetoing the sale is “reasonable, and the right thing to do,” said ICANN's chair, Maarten Botterman, in a blog post .

Botterman noted the “fundamental public interest nature” of the organization that currently oversees dot-org. That would have been transferred to one “bound to serve the interests of its corporate stakeholders” had the sale gone through, he said.

He also expressed concern over what the debt involved in the transaction would mean for those dot-org users, which include public radio broadcaster NPR, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and medical humanitarian group Doctors without Borders.

Ethos Capital and the Internet Society, the nonprofit founded by many of the internet’s early engineers and scientists that currently runs the registry, had said concerns were misplaced. Ethos had offered concessions including capping price hikes.

The investment firm said in a statement that the decision “will suffocate innovation and deter future investment in the domain industry” and that it is evaluating its options. The Internet Society said it is disappointed “that ICANN has acted as a regulatory body it was never meant to be.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which had campaigned against the sale, said ICANN's decision was a “stunning victory for nonprofits and NGOs around the world working in the public interest.”