ISOC is selling .org to a private equity firm

The Internet Society is selling the .org registry to Ethos Capital, a private equity firm. Such .org domains are typically used by non-profits, the open source community, and — for ineffable reasons — my blog.

The function of a registry is to grant monopolies over specific domain names for a year. They can set a new price for renewal every year — say, instead of $10/year charge $10,000/year. If I were to not re-purchase my domain name when it expires, then all the existing links to my blog would instantly break.

When Ted Nelson invented hyperlinks in 1965 for the Xanadu hypertext system, they were bidirectional and impossible to break. For practicality, Tim Berners-Lee simplified the hypertext architecture to unidirectional links when adapting it to create the world wide web and the first web browser in the 1989, and broken links are the reality we live with today.

Consider insulin. The Canadian inventor of insulin, Frederick Banting, sold the patent for a dollar so that it would be freely accessible to everyone in the world. It costs a dollar to produce a dose. It retails for $30 a dose in Canada. It retails for $700 a dose in US. When you monetize someone’s lifeline, you can charge their life savings.

My blog depends on the stability of its domain name. How much is not breaking all incoming links worth to me?

Just to be safe, I’ve renewed my domain at the current reasonable price for the next nine years to postpone my decision point. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to sign EFF’s open letter to ISOC to block the sale of .ORG.

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