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.ORG Will Thrive Under Ethos Capital

Jeff Bedser

I've been proud to serve Public Interest Registry (PIR) since 2017 and play a part in helping the organization support those with a mission to do good. I recently joined every one of my fellow board members in reaching the unanimous decision to approve the sale of PIR, as I believe PIR's mission will best be served by the sale and .ORG's long-term future will be stronger under Ethos Capital ownership.

A core responsibility of the PIR Board is to ensure every decision we make meets the highest ethical standard and supports the best interests of PIR, .ORG and the public they serve. My vote to approve this transaction was made with these principles in mind. Here's why:

PIR (and .ORG) are currently controlled by the Internet Society (ISOC), and the surplus funds that PIR generates on .ORG products and services flow out of PIR to support ISOC programs. This arrangement partially fulfills PIR's mission (that includes supporting ISOC) and would fully benefit PIR in its operation of .ORG if ISOC's mission was solely focused on building and growing the future success of .ORG. But that isn't the case.

ISOC's primary mission is to expand Internet access around the world and keep the Internet free and open and available to everyone. That's important work, and they have some of the brightest minds helping ISOC lead that charge.

But ISOC doesn't directly devote time, resources and energy thinking of ways to make .ORG better, or how to make it stronger.

ISOC (as well as the public) has materially benefitted from the protocols and procedures that PIR has developed and implemented as a model for the industry to follow for ethically operating a registry. ISOC also has materially benefitted from .ORG's year-to-year revenue production. But that perennial short-term model doesn't set up ISOC, PIR or .ORG for long-term success, especially in light of today's ever-changing and highly competitive Internet domain marketplace.

As a member of the PIR Board, in order to uphold my responsibility to serve PIR's best interests, I have an obligation to make smart decisions that will further PIR's mission and ensure a brighter future for .ORG.

The sale of PIR to Ethos Capital will do exactly that.

Ethos will focus on .ORG. It will have the ability and motivation to invest additional funds and resources into .ORG to ensure its long-term future by supporting research and development for new products and services that will help the .ORG Community. The sale also will create a dedicated, predictable and more secure source of funding for ISOC's "bigger picture" charitable mission.

Ethos can be a for-profit business and a strong steward of .ORG at the same time.┬áPIR's CEO, Jon Nevett, has characterized .ORG as the "crown jewel" of the Internet. He's right. It's why Ethos has publicly stated it will adhere to the same .ORG principles that exist today. It's smart business — and any organization, commercial or nonprofit, would be foolish to change the successful work PIR has done to distinguish .ORG as THE home for the mission-driven.

The PIR Board spent a great deal of time analyzing the details of the transaction, discussed it at length, and weighed the benefits and potential concerns related to the acquisition. We asked serious questions of Erik Brooks and Ethos Capital regarding his intentions for PIR, where he expressed his intention of being a long-term partner of the organization. Ethos, PIR and the Internet Society have since worked diligently to address questions about the transaction, which has been one of the most transparent requests for a change of control in ICANN's history.

Actions speak louder than words, of course. And Ethos has taken steps to back its promises. Some examples:

  • Today there are no contractual price restrictions on .ORG. But Ethos has said it will act to impose price guidelines on .ORG based on concerns raised by the nonprofit community. Ethos didn't have to do this. But it did.
  • The seamless transition was important to the PIR Board. Ethos has committed to keep the great team currently in place which will be integral to the success of PIR. The right people will stay to guide the next era of .ORG. Ethos didn't have to do this. But it did.
  • It was important to the PIR Board that Jon Nevett, a domain industry veteran appointed a year ago to lead PIR, also remain in place after the transaction. His 15-year-track record building registrars and registries and advocating for the domain industry and its users should give confidence that the .ORG registry is in good hands. Ethos didn't have to agree to this. But it did.

As with all acquisitions, the sale of PIR involves proprietary and confidential financial information. And just like sales of other registries in the past that have undergone review by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), certain specifics about the deal can't be disclosed due to confidentiality agreements. But PIR has taken the extraordinary step to publish its responses to ICANN's questions and be transparent in accordance with ICANN's disclosure policies.

My fellow Board members and I made sure the sale process was conducted thoughtfully, legally, and followed the highest ethical standards. Some have asked if the Board will benefit personally from this transaction. The answer is no. In fact, we will no longer be Board members after the transaction closes, so if anything, we will lose our ability to have impact on PIR's mission with the transaction and yet we still voted in favor of it.

I voted for this transaction as I concluded it is the best path for PIR, its mission and for .ORG's continued success. It will be good for .ORG. It will strengthen .ORG. It will benefit those who use .ORG. And it will protect the long-term future of ISOC, PIR and .ORG and the communities they serve.

By Jeff Bedser, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at PIR and the CEO of iThreat
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