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About Internet Society

Our Work to Make the Internet for Everyone Marches On

Over the past several months the Internet Society has been working on a transaction to sell Public Interest Registry (PIR), operator of .ORG and other top-level domains, to Ethos Capital. Under PIR’s registry agreements, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) had to consent to this indirect change of control. ICANN has now announced that it does not consent to the transaction.

I am, of course, disappointed by ICANN’s decision, though I am pleased it was finally reached. ICANN took much longer than it should have done to vote on the transaction. In my view, ICANN stepped outside its remit by acting as a regulator it was never intended to beWhat began as a routine change of indirect control – the type ICANN has expeditiously approved on multiple occasions in the past – resulted in months and months of review and analysis. The outcome does not seem consistent with ICANN’s prior decisions in similar cases. It should concern  the Internet community that ICANN has shown itself to be much more susceptible to political pressure than its limited mandate would recommend.

Nevertheless, ICANN has now rendered a clear decision. This brings to a close a period of uncertainty that has been hard on everybody, and a distraction from the important work of the Internet Society

When the Internet Society Trustees were faced with a financial offer of such magnitude from Ethos to purchase PIR, they had to consider it. It would have been irresponsible to ignore it. When the Trustees accepted the offer in a unanimous vote, they did so because they believed the transaction would be good for the Internet Society, good for PIR, and good for registrants in .ORG and all the registries PIR operates. It’s not very often when an opportunity presents itself that has advantages for everyone. 

When we announced the proposed transaction we were criticized, sometimes bitterly, by people who were unhappy with it. I understood their concerns. I still do.

Ethos made several good-faith attempts to allay those concerns. I believe these measures would have worked and benefited the community, had they been accepted; but others disagreed.

Some sought widespread consultations. We did not believe it would be possible to undertake those consultations without doing a lot of harm to PIR and hence to the registrants in .ORG. The months of uncertainty regarding PIR’s future since the proposal was announced have been hard on PIR’s employees.  An extended consultation without any clear picture of what the possible outcomes might be would have been worse for PIR and for .ORG. Neither the Trustees nor I believed we could undertake such a consultation, and we do not believe that such a consultation would be a good idea now.

Though ICANN has refused its consent, PIR has diligently adhered to its responsibilities under its agreements with ICANN, and it will continue to do so in its usual exemplary fashion. Now that we know that ICANN believes its remit to be much larger than we believe it is, we can state this clearly: neither PIR nor any of its operations are for sale now, and the Internet Society will resist vigorously any suggestion that they ought to be.

The Internet Society will focus on its core work: an Internet that is open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy for everyone. At a time when we are all reminded about how crucial the Internet is for society, our work has never been more critical. We will continue to focus on that work in support of our mission. To do it, we shall continue to rely on our partners at PIR, who will maintain, as ever, its exemplary service to all those who rely on .ORG and the other TLDs PIR operates.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Jon Nevett, Brian Cimbolic, and Judy Song-Marshall at PIR for their continuous support. I want also to acknowledge and thank the tireless commitment of the Ethos team and their leader, Erik Brooks. Their commitment to do the right thing by showing, through action, how they would be excellent stewards of .ORG deserved better than the treatment they received at times.

Our work to make the Internet for everyone marches on.


Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on KeyPointsAbout.Org.

For more information about the Internet Society’s work, please see our 2019 Impact Report.

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About Internet Society

Working together to build a bigger, stronger Internet

[Published on behalf of the Internet Society Board of Trustees.]

The Internet Society’s vision is that the Internet is for everyone. Earlier this month, we wrote about our efforts to ensure a stable and diverse funding model to support the work that takes us towards our vision. The role of the Board of Trustees is to provide, with support from the community, the strategic direction for that work. In this post, we discuss our recent and current strategic efforts, put them into context, and provide pointers with more information for our community to get involved in defining our wanted future.

Naturally, the starting point of our current strategy was to agree with the community on the overall direction. Therefore, two years ago, during 2017, the Board consulted with our community to revise our mission statement into what we have today. Many of you contributed to that 2017 effort, which resulted in the following three focus areas:

  • Building and supporting the communities that make the Internet work;
  • Advancing the development and application of Internet infrastructure, technologies, and open standards; and
  • Advocating for policy that is consistent with our view of the Internet

Based on that community agreement on the development of this new mission, the Board of Trustees began the work on a plan to change the structure of the Internet Society in order to best support this refreshed mission. This plan eventually led to the creation of two new “supporting organizations” during 2018.

One aspect of our plan was working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to create a new supporting organization in the form of the IETF LLC. The establishment of the IETF LLC was discussed at length with the IETF community. While the Internet Society remains the largest funding source for the IETF, the result is that the IETF LLC formally gives the IETF legal status, and more freedom to manage their support activities, including budgeting.

A second aspect of our plan was the creation of the Internet Society Foundation to provide funding to the community in several key areas. As the Foundation team recently explained in the Foundation’s own Action Plan 2020, they will be funding work within our Chapters, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and other communities; funding research and innovation; and supporting partners to help develop disaster-resilient communities. In addition, the Foundation will be supporting projects that strengthen communities, and improve lives and livelihoods. As usual, we will be seeking ideas from our community.

The Internet Society Foundation has already been providing grants in 2019 and is looking forward to expanding that work in 2020. Remain alert for future calls for grant applications.

Once our new mission and the structure above were in place, in 2019 the Board of Trustees turned its focus on aligning ISOC’s internal structure and short term-plan with the long-term direction given by our mission. Encouraged by the Board, both efforts were championed by Andrew Sullivan, our President and CEO, and the Internet Society Executive Team.

ISOC’s new internal structure makes it easy to set up projects that include the necessary competence. It also facilitates identifying areas where new capabilities need to be developed. We believe that the new structure provides ISOC with a solid foundation to implement its future action plans.

ISOC’s 2020 Action Plan was developed together with our community. Through the outreach we conducted over the past six months, over 3,000 of our members contributed to surveys and feedback sessions, helping to shape and guide the direction of this new Action Plan. The Board of Trustees approved the Action Plan on November 24, 2019, in part because we are confident that what we now have in place reflects the voice of our community. 

We also want to thank all the members our community who joined us last Wednesday, December 11, to learn more about the Action Plan and how we will focus on building, promoting, and defending the Internet to make it bigger and stronger for everyone. We look forward to working with you all to move our 2020 projects forward and to achieve the tangible and impactful outcomes we seek.

As we set out on the path to 2025, we plan to continue consulting our community to develop our action plans. Please, stay tuned and continue providing us with your valuable input. Our goal is to make sure the direction of the Internet Society and its work remain aligned with community interests.

To sustain the important work in support of our mission, the work within our supporting organizations, and the projects within our Action Plan, we on the Board of Trustees have a duty to ensure the long-term viability of the Internet Society. Therefore, reducing financial risk is of strategic importance for the Internet Society. Previous boards have worked on revenue diversification activities for many years with limited success.  As we wrote earlier this month, we believe the sale of the PIR will help the Internet Society reduce this financial risk, while at the same time enabling PIR to do much more to grow the .ORG domain business and provide new services to .ORG registrants.

If you are interested in the work Board does, several years ago we started making both the minutes and the video recordings of our Board meetings publicly available. We also hold Open Forum meetings and webminars where the community can interact with the Board. In addition, trustees interact with parts of the community at multiple events on a constant basis.

As we head toward 2020 and to our longer-term strategy for 2025, we look forward to continuing to work with all of our Chapters, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Organization members, individual members, and partners to realize our vision that “The Internet is for everyone”. We believe in an Internet that is open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy. Thank you for all you do to ensure that the Internet is a resource to enrich people’s lives and a force for good in society.


Image: Community members of Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo work together with the Internet Society to learn how to use and install the Internet during the Internet Society/ Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo training session on November 14th, 2019. © Elyse Butler

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About Internet Society

The sale of PIR: The Internet Society Board Perspective

[Published on behalf of the Internet Society Board of Trustees.]

Last Friday we held a webinar with Internet Society members to answer questions about the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR). We were also able to unveil more details about the sale and its long-term contribution to the stability of the Internet Society (ISOC). On that call, we listened to our community members carefully. We heard the concerns regarding this decision from those who are worried about the future of the .ORG community, and who believe that we – as a non-profit and mission-driven organisation- are risking undermining our own legitimacy and responsibility to the public Internet.

First and foremost, we take the reaction from our community very seriously. Clearly, some members of the community believe that the decision to move forward with this transaction is harming our reputation. We fully understand the concerns expressed by our chapters and members, and we know that a lot of the criticism we have faced since announcing the transaction stems from the fact that we have not consulted openly, or been as clear as we should have been about what this sale would mean for both .ORG, and the Internet Society. It has always been the Board’s intention to be as open, transparent, and forthcoming about this deal as realistically and legally as possible, while keeping in mind that there are still more steps to go through before it is expected to close in Q1, 2020. I hope it is evident that we have had to balance the need to listen and communicate with  the need to keep parts of the negotiations and decision-making confidential in the interests of the transaction itself. We remain committed to communicating as much as we can, when we can.

Let me emphasize again however, that we continue to believe that this deal will help protect ISOC’s future and ensure its long-term stability and growth. It is our job as the Board to do what is the interest of ISOC, its community and its mission, even when that may not be popular or well-received in the media. It was for this reason that the board voted unanimously to approve the deal (aside from one trustee who is recused from PIR matters). Hopefully through this conversation we can share our thinking and help the rest of the community have the same confidence we do.

This is a good deal not just for ISOC, but also for the .ORG community.  Under the Internet Society, PIR has always been constrained in the amount of investment it could make in growing the business, because of the need to produce a reliable revenue stream. Under Ethos, PIR will have an opportunity to invest more in the registry and expand services for all registrants. Ethos Capital has stated its commitment to building upon PIR’s success, and to supporting its continued growth so that it can become an even more reliable and useful home for non-profit organizations and members of the .ORG community. So the .ORG community should expect to see continuity in how .ORG is managed, with opportunities for improvement in the future.

The deal also helps the Internet Society focus on its vision “the Internet is for everyone”. It not only frees the organization from the time it takes to oversee the management of PIR, but means that we will no longer be reliant on one single revenue stream, from one company, in one industry. The diversification that becomes possible for the Internet Society through this sale will ensure far, far greater stability in our funding going forward, meaning that we will be able to plan longer term and focus fully on work that takes us toward our mission. I would like to be clear that this is about stability and risk mitigation, not about profit. It’s about the Internet Society’s mission, and doing more to fulfil our mission, which remains our focus. 

In the same vein, I would stress that this is not abandonment of the Internet Society’s principles. We have an important role to play in expanding the Internet’s reach, and making it stronger for everyone, and we believe the sale of PIR will enable us to focus on this. This doesn’t mean we are turning our backs on the .ORG community. We want to see that community grow, and we want .ORG to continue to be a place for non-profits to live online and to help them fulfil their online goals. One of the key considerations of the Board was to ensure that through this deal, we uphold the brand and message and mission of PIR, and keep its strength working in service of the public interest. In particular, the establishment of a “Stewardship committee” with representatives from the community was an important aspect of our consideration of Ethos’ proposal, because it will help to ensure that the community has a say in how PIR is run in the future.

I have every confidence that .ORG will be able to thrive under new ownership, and that the non-profit community will continue to be well served in future. 

We will continue to listen. We have heard loud and clear that there is a sense of broken trust with the community that we are part of. I will acknowledge that while we have communicated quite factually about the deal, we regret not showing enough empathy for these concerns, as they are real and valid.  And for that, we acknowledge our shortcomings, and will use this as a lesson moving forward in striving to be more empathetic and engaging with our community. While there will be work needed to bring the community back together after all this is settled, we are committed to seeing that work through, and building a community that is stronger than ever.

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About Internet Society

The Internet Society & Public Interest Registry: A New Era of Opportunity

Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the .ORG Community.  Earlier today, the Internet Society and Public Interest Registry (PIR) announced that they have reached an agreement with Ethos Capital, an investment firm that helps transform and grow companies in today’s rapidly evolving digital economy, under which Ethos Capital will acquire PIR and all of its assets from the Internet Society.  

As brief background – in 2002, the Internet Society won a competitive bidding process for the .ORG registry and established PIR to manage and operate the .ORG domain.  Since that time, the Internet Society and PIR have worked to grow .ORG into the largest purpose-driven domain – used today by millions of organizations and others to achieve their online goals – and PIR’s contributions to the Internet Society have helped make the Internet more available, accessible and secure for people around the world.

This transaction aligns PIR with a strong, new strategic partner, Ethos Capital, that not only possesses a deep understanding of the intricacies of the domain industry, but also has the ideal mix of expertise, experience and shared values to further advance the goals of .ORG into the future.  As a mission-driven firm focused on the guiding values and ideals that build successful organizations and communities, Ethos Capital is committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations, to maintaining the strong community relationships PIR has established over the years, and to continuing PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly, without disruption to the .ORG Community or other generic top-level domains operated by the organization.

Once the transaction is completed, PIR will continue to meet the highest standards of public transparency, accountability, and social performance in line with its longstanding purpose-driven mission, and will consider seeking B Corporation certification. 

Today’s news has tremendous benefits for both the Internet Society and PIR.  The transaction will help the Internet Society to secure its future through more stable, diversified and sustainable financial resources than it has at present, allowing the organization to plan for the long term and advance its vision of an Internet for everyone on an even broader scale.  It will also enable PIR to continue expanding its mission and important work under new ownership — including its goal of keeping .ORG accessible and reasonably priced — while further strengthening and deepening its commitment to the .ORG Community.

PIR and Ethos Capital are looking forward to launching several new initiatives aimed at promoting and supporting the .ORG Community, including:

  • Establishing a Stewardship Council that will serve to uphold PIR’s core founding values and provide support through a variety of community programs;
  • Launching a Community Enablement Fund to support the financing of current and additional initiatives undertaken by key Internet organizations; and 
  • Expanding a program to award .ORG prizes to promote the success and positive impact of non-profit organizations.

This announcement marks an important milestone within the domain industry – one that the Internet Society, PIR and Ethos Capital are confident will protect and enhance the interests of both the Internet and .ORG communities for years to come.

Andrew Sullivan
President & CEO
The Internet Society
Erik Brooks
Founder & CEO
Ethos Capital
Jon Nevett
CEO
Public Interest Registry
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About Internet Society

Nominations Now Open for 2019 Public Interest Registry (PIR) Board of Directors

The Public Interest Registry (PIR) is the non-profit operator of the .ORG, .NGO and .ONG domains. If you or someone you know has the interest and qualifications to help guide the future of PIR, the Internet Society invites you to consider a seat on the PIR Board of Directors.

In 2019 there are three positions opening on the PIR Board. These three directors will serve a 3-year term that begins mid-year 2019 and expires mid-year 2022. Prior board experience is preferred. All directors must be able to read and understand a balance sheet, as well as read and communicate effectively in the English language.

More information about the position, the qualifications, and a link to the nomination form can be found at:
https://dev.internetsociety.org/pir/call-for-nominations/

The deadline for nominations is 15:00 UTC on February 4, 2019.

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About Internet Society

Deadline of Feb 1 for Nominations for Public Interest Registry (.ORG Operator) Board of Directors

Would you be interested in helping guide the future of the Public Interest Registry (PIR), the non-profit operator of the .ORG, .NGO and .ONG domains? If so, the Internet Society is seeking nominations for three positions on the PIR Board of Directors. The nominations deadline is 23:00 UTC on Thursday, February 1, 2018.

More information about the positions and the required qualifications can be found at: https://dev.internetsociety.org/pir/call-for-nominations/

As noted on that page:

The Internet Society is now accepting nominations for the Board of Directors of the Public Interest Registry (PIR). PIR’s business is to manage the international registry of .org, .ngo, and .ong domain names, as well as associated Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs).

In 2018 there are three positions opening on the PIR Board. Two directors will serve a 3-year term that begins mid-year 2018 and expires mid-year 2021. One director will fill a vacant seat as soon as practical and serve until mid-year 2020.

If you are interested in being considered as a candidate, please see the form to submit toward the bottom of the call for nominations page.