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Fury at ICANN/ VeriSign over .org domains

Existing holders may have to hand 'em over

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Furious .org domain name holders have swamped a public forum set up by ICANN yesterday, angry at proposals that will force them to hand back their domains unless they register as non-profit organisations. The proposals come in a suggested new deal with ICANN from domain monopolist VeriSign.

In our story yesterday, we expressed our rabid displeasure at VeriSign (formerly Network Solutions) being handed the keys to the .com and .net domains for another four years until 2007. The "justification" for this backroom dealing was that VeriSign would give up the far less important .org domain registry.

However, an item we missed entirely - and which forms the bulk of the discussions on the public forum - is what will happen to .org domains after VeriSign hands over the registry. The .org TLD will revert to its original intention as a domain for non-profit organisations.

This is too rich for many current .org owners. First of all, VeriSign walked over the original intention for only non-profit companies to use .org. It sold domains to just about anyone - as long as they were willing to pay. Now, when VeriSign decides to ship out so it can retain control of both .com and .net, the .org domain is to return back to its roots.

This is clearly in VeriSign's interests as it would effectively remove any competition from the .org gTLD, but seeing as .org has become what it has become, it is in absolutely no one else's interests. Unless current .org owners register for non-profit status, they will even lose their domain. This is not only unfair and ridiculous but will spark hundreds of lawsuits.

Why on earth does ICANN think the Internet is little more than its plaything?

Its attitude really is disgusting. It has extended VeriSign's monopoly on the two biggest TLDs on the Internet until 2007. This cosy relationship is contrary to everything the Internet stands for. Of course, without the money that VeriSign gives ICANN every year, ICANN would have trouble running.

And also, why is this deal going through so unnecessarily early? Is it another example of out-going CEO Mike Roberts giving his old mates contracts before he is replaced on 13 March? The new blood - including the new president/CEO Dr M. Stuart Lynn, chairman Vint Cerf and the At-Large directors - will have their hands tied by the time they get any real power.

Posters on the forum have ranged from the confused to the questioning to the furious. Some have suggested that a new gTLD (.npo for example) would be a far better solution, rather than kicking current owners off their domains. Some have threatened lawsuits. All are unhappy. Of 245 postings currently up there, just ONE agrees with the proposal.

He said: "I would support a move by the ICANN to return .org to its original intended use (per RFC). I interpret this as meaning that .org domains registered by commercial entities would be declared invalid. This would go a long way to combat the deliberate moves by the likes of Network Solutions to create scarcity in domain names, to their own benefit as name brokers." No one else was in agreement with him.

Another poster suggested that the only solution was to go straight to the US Department of Commerce - the only people that officially stop the deal going through as suggested. "Let's go over ICANN's head and stop the deal at Congress instead! You can send email to Secretary Donald Evans (US D.O.C.) by email at devans@doc.gov."

An early poster was Mike Roberts - the current president and CEO of ICANN, soon to be replaced - who tired to clarify the situation. "I would like to post a general response to this concern. The need for an appropriate transition period for the .org registry to non-commercial status is fully recognized by those working on the proposed agreements. Should the agreements be approved, ICANN will conduct an open process through which the interests of all those affected by a change in .org policies will be respected. Mike Roberts, ICANN". Posters were not impressed or persuaded.

What follows are some of the more informative postings. The forum itself is here. ®

"If you grandfather existing .org domains, I don't have a major problem with this proposal. If, however, ICANN attempts to force existing .org domain holders to comply to USA-specific definitions of non-profit corporations, there will be a serious backlash. And I'll be part of it. Org has been recommended by IANA as the namespace for personal domains for some time. antipope.org is valuable to me, personally, as I've had this domain for five years and am widely associated with it.

"I provide a small freenet service to anyone who asks me for access, and host a number of other .org domains (such as paganlink.org which is non-profit in operation, albeit not a US-based non-profit corporation). To remove my right to my own .org domain will do me considerable professional damage (both to my reputation on the net - I'm a journalist - and by removing my long-standing contact information). It'd also do damage to this religious organisation, who I assume wouldn't be happy, either.

"I'm afraid if this proposal goes through without any consideration I will have to ask my lawyer about my options for legal redress against ICANN. All I know is that I won't be the only one ..."



"Like numerous other netizens, I selected a .org domain for my personal web presence to distinguish myself from a corporate entity. The current system allows for no alternative. Your message refers to 'non-commercial status', but the proposed changes specifically state that .org will become a domain 'for the specific use of non-profit organizations'.



"I am deeply concerned that my long-established .org presence on the Internet will be disrupted; I will be burdened with the hardship of having to inform numerous entities of the change, there are people who will slip through the cracks who will never be informed of the change (and thus lose track of me), and (as past experience has taught me) it will be at least 6-12 months before popular search engines are updated."



"Restoring .org to non-profit organizations is a good idea on the surface, but it's way, way, way too late. And with .com for businesses, and .net supposedly for network providers, where am I supposed to go?"




"I am not a non-profit organization but I have a .org domain name. While I may not be a legal non-profit organization, I do not make money from my Web site, and I do non-profit work for people through my Web site. If this revision is added I believe that all people who had registered their domains before the revision should not be subject to the terms of this. After all I've paid for my domain name, and I chose my domain name for a reason. Why should I suffer simply because you have decided to make changes? Anyways that is just my opinion on this matter."




"Here is a company that stole publicly-owned information, declared it proprietary, disallowed the public to use it, and then, dashing salt into an already stinging wound, decided to sell that information for the very purpose it restricted access to it in the first place, and you want to hand them yet another ticket on the gravy train? For shame."




"The purpose of ICANN was to introduce competition into the sale of domain names. Yes, we have all heard the story of what a wonderful job NSI has done in opening up the market. But, it is all a bunch of lies! They still make $6 off the sale of every domain name regardless of who is selling it. This doesn't sound like competition to me... this sounds like job security.



VeriSign should NOT be given unlimited control of '.com' until the following steps are taken:
1) ICANN is given full control of the database and the root servers.
2) Hundreds of new top level domains are in place and being sold by independent registries (like IOD's .web) that are not paying NSI or VeriSign any money at all.
3) The Membership At Large is given the chance to elect the remaining four Board Members that were promised 2 years ago.
4) The squatters on the ICANN Board have resigned their positions.
5) ICANN conducts all meetings in an open and transparent way and there is public input regarding the decisions that are made at such meetings.
6) Expired domain names that are being 'held ransom' by NSI and auctioned off on their site 'GreatDomains.com' must be put back into the pool and be available to purchase again at base cost ($35 each)."

Related Links

Public Forum
US Department of Commerce

Related Story

VeriSign loses control of .org domain

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