Sale of .org internet domain sparks fears of rising costs for charities

The Public Interest Registry, which runs the .org domain, has been sold to a private equity firm

Charities could face significant increases in the amount they pay for internet domains after the .org domain was sold to a private equity firm, experts have warned. 

The Internet Society announced last week that it had sold the .org domain and the Public Interest Registry, which runs the domain, to Ethos Capital for an undisclosed amount. The sale is due to be completed early next year.

The change in ownership comes after a decision earlier this year to remove the cap on the maximum price organisations could be charged to use the .org domain.

The prices were approximately $10 (£7.74) prior to the changes in the cap and have not yet been changed.

But there are fears they could be increased significantly over time, with the now defunct cap having also prevented price rises of more than 10 per cent a year.

The .org.uk domain is controlled by Nominet and is therefore unaffected by the changes to .org.

The domain name registrar Namecheap is among the organisations that opposed the removal of the price cap, arguing that because there was one domain registry in charge of .org there was no competition to keep prices in check.

In a blog published earlier this year, Namecheap said: "Rather than a 10 per cent increase to renew your domain next year, it could suddenly start charging registrars like Namecheap 100 times as much. Registrars would have no choice but to pass these charges on to customers.

"This means that the price for the domain name you’ve been using for over a decade could shoot up. The registry has to tell the registrar six months in advance, but then they are free to charge whatever they want.

"Switching domains is hard, so you will have little option but to pay the higher prices."

Jon Nevett, chief executive of the Public Interest Registry, said in a statement after PIR’s sale: "Since the inception of Public Interest Registry, our mission has been to enable the .org community to use the internet more effectively and change the world for the better.

"That will not change. We have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with the Internet Society and are thrilled that we will be able to continue – and expand – our important work with Ethos Capital while sustaining our commitment to the .org community going forward."

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