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ICANN May Allow .Org Domain Renewal Prices to go Sky High

ICANN announces new agreement with .Org registry that removes cap on price

     
2:37 pm on Mar 19, 2019 (gmt 0)

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ICANN is current negotiating the renewal of the .Org "registry agreement". As part of that process ICANN is prepared to amend the registry agreement to allow the central registry for .Org domains - PIR.org - to operate like other domain registrars that are allowed to charge whatever they want = whatever the market will bear. [icann.org ]

Here's the operative language of ICANN's announcement

Provisions in the proposed .org renewal agreement that are materially different from the current .org registry agreement:

Approved Services (Exhibit A): Consistent with all new gTLDs and other "legacy" TLD registry agreement renewals, Exhibit A has been modified to include the following additional or modified approved services: Anti-Abuse, Searchable Whois, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), .org Single and Two-Character Phased Allocation Program, Bulk Transfer After Partial Portfolio Acquisition (BTAPPA), Registry Lock, and an implementation period of 270 calendar days to transition all systems to the requirements of the .org renewal agreement, which is consistent with other legacy TLD registry agreement renewals.

Pricing for Domain Name Registrations and Registry Services (Section 2.10 of the proposed renewal agreement): In alignment with the base registry agreement, the price cap provisions in the current .org agreement, which limited the price of registrations and allowable price increases for registrations, are removed from the .org renewal agreement. Protections for existing registrants will remain in place, in line with the base registry agreement. This change will not only allow the .org renewal agreement to better conform with the base registry agreement, but also takes into consideration the maturation of the domain name market andthe goal of treating the Registry Operator equitably with registry operators of new gTLDs and other legacy gTLDs utilizing the base registry agreement

You will recall that ICANN's new "uncapped pricing" policy included the new gTLD registrars demanding HEFTY FEEs for so called "premium domains", domain registration and renewal fees in the hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands of dollars. Many people speculated and paid premium prices for so called premium domains, believing . . hoping . . that the new gTLD would soon become a hot property and they would make a killing when they resold the domain. The anticipated riches never materialized for the registrants. The ONLY money being made was at the registry level - the company marketing the new . . cough . . Wonder Domains!. I had no sympathy for those who bought premiums names at premium prices because they only needed to study the recent history of speculation (and marketing) of .mobi, .info, .biz, etc domains to KNOW that they - the speculators - were setting themselves up for failure.

Here's the rub: .Org is an incumbent registrar. It has existed to ~2 decades. It serves as the registry for approximately 10,000,000 domains. It was set up as a non-profit entity to serve the interests of non-profit organization. The .Org domain was "unrestricted", so its domains could be employed by any entity, including for profit, but .Org's reputation and value proposition was that .Org served to identify with the values of the non-profit community.

So, what comes next? Well . . now (December 2018) here comes PIR.org's brand new CEO, Jonathon Nevett, who honed his skills helping to launch and build Donuts, Inc - an entity that spawned, acquired at auction and promoted no less than 240 - yes, 240 - of the new gTLDs . . and then went on to sell Donuts, Inc. to a private equity firm.

What was the "value proposition" for the sale of Donuts, Inc. to a private equity firm? This is it: Domain registration, as a business, is a "subscription model" business. In other words, if you can get people to build their brand around your registry's gTLD you can lock that business or organization or person into renewing that domain . . and living with future price increases, whatever the cost (if it's less painful than rebuilding your online identity.)

So, what's to come for those 10,000,000 entities that believed they were dealing with a non-profit registry that served the interests of non-profits?

If you have anything to say to ICANN about uncapped prices for your .Org domain you have until April 29th to make your concerns known.
10:27 am on Mar 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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So, what's to come for those 10,000,000 entities that believed they were dealing with a non-profit registry that served the interests of non-profits?

This sounds horrible. What does one say to a friend on the board of a local non-profit group that has absolutey no expertise in this? It's not something I can take on... but I know a lot of good citizens in my local area who aren't going to know what to do.

I'd like to help... not make any money from this. Are there any authorities beyond ICANN to appeal to? Some of these folks know a lot about local and state politics... but not much about quasi official setups like ICANN.

(Is that a fair characterization of ICANN? I really don't know, as it's not generally my turf, but it seems with these developments that it is.)

12:42 pm on Mar 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Robert, you quietly nudge the .org's webmaster to secure the .com if it's available.

Your average internet user doesn't know that a .org is a non-profit, nor do they care. There is no need to get gouged, the site's will function just as well as .com's.
1:16 pm on Mar 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I'd say go in soon and renew it for 10 years at the current price.
2:19 pm on Mar 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Robert Charlton, you advise your client to submit their objections (follow the link up top), insist that client contact others in the non-profit space to do the same, AND advise them to contact others - "across the pond" - AND contact their congressional representatives. Anything less and they have no one to blames but themselves for a lack of responsiveness or a bad outcome.

Do what you can.
6:26 pm on Mar 20, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Also look at moving to ccTLD equivalents if they have better governance.

ICANN is now working for the benefit or registrars not registrants.
10:56 pm on Mar 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like bean counters and stakeholders are looking for a payday.
2:22 pm on Mar 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Someone should start a campaign website about this. I would love to share this info with people outside the industry, and explain its about squeezing more money out of (mostly) non-profits, but we need something to share.

If they get away with this it will be.com next.
7:07 pm on Apr 11, 2019 (gmt 0)

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ICA weighs in by sending a letter to ICANN. [internetcommerce.org ]

I find it a bit disconcerting that ICANN would "allow" the .Org gTLD operator to set whatever price it wants on THE TLD that in its inception and marketing was promoted to non-profit
organizations

Cancer.org IS a pretty serious domain AND organization. I can only wonder how surprised the American Cancer Society will be when they get a bill for $$$$ to $$$$$ for the renewal of their "premium" domain . . cough . .
6:53 pm on Apr 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Thousands of comments have been submitted to ICANN objecting to the proposal to un-cap price increases on the .Org gTLD.

[mm.icann.org ]
5:40 pm on May 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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ICA issues a follow-up letter [internetcommerce.org ] stating, in part:

In a statement released today, PIR, the operator of the .ORG domain name registry, did not rule out the possibility of substantial price hikes on .org domain names if its new proposed contract is approved by ICANN.

In response to the thousands of objections submitted to ICANN by individual registrants, charities, religious groups, community organizations, and some of the largest and most prestigious organizations in America, PIR asked its customers to “rest assured” that it will not raise prices “unreasonably” and claims that it has “no specific plans” to hike prices.

Conspicuously absent however, is any promise to its customers not to raise prices beyond its current 10% price hike cap. Clearly, PIR is keeping all of its options open, and even in the professed absence of “any specific plans”, it is apparent that PIR likely has general plans to raise prices beyond the current 10% price cap with no limit in sight. This is hardly surprising, for if PIR intended to limit price hikes to the generous currently permitted 10% per year, it would have had no need whatsoever to request the removal of all price caps in the new proposed contract, and accordingly PIR’s claim that it is “simply moving to the standard registry agreement” rings hollow. If PIR was truly committed to keeping prices “reasonably low”, it would have simply agreed to keep the current 10% annual cap on price increases.
8:31 pm on May 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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This does not sound good at all, and is especially bad for charities and not for profits. I don't have many .orgs, but I do know that each charity does not want to spend any money where it's not helping the good cause. In the scheme of things for a business it's probably not going to be a lot of money, but it's money not spent on the cause.
11:34 pm on May 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Tip of the iceberg. If ORG can be leveraged for increased, expect the other top domains to soon follow.

Expect the web to CONTRACT if that happens as the entry level will be elevated.