PIR Eyeing Growth Opportunities Following Ethos Capital Takeover

Public Interest Registry and the Internet Society announced Wednesday that they had agreed for PIR, the .org registry, to be taken over by Ethos Capital, an investment firm, based in the United States.

.ORG was established in 2002 when the Internet Society won a competitive bidding process for the .ORG registry and established PIR to manage and operate the .ORG domain.

The takeover sees PIR excited for their future and allowing the Internet Society to focus on their core activities with a long term financial endowment and security.

Speaking to Domain Pulse, PIR’s CEO Jon Nevett said they’re “excited for the future and the new opportunities the new ownership brings.” Nevett went on to say they’ll be looking at other TLDs that have a similar mission to PIR, without naming any, with a view to future takeovers and growth.

“We’ll be looking at other mission-based TLDs that are consistent in their mission with .org and that are focussed on doing good on the internet,” said Nevett.

Speaking to the issue of an increase in the registry fee that has been discussed in the domain name community in recent months, Nevett went on to say “the takeover is not a masterplan to increase the .org fee and any future increases would be reasonable and fair.” It was a point reiterated by a spokesperson for Ethos who said there would be no dramatic price increases, not least because of competitive pressures in the market, namely, a wide range of other choices of TLDs.

“For the most part, it’s just a change in ownership,” said Nevett. “The same management team will exist.”

“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,” stated Jon Nevett, CEO of Public Interest Registry in a joint announcement. “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.”

Vint Cerf, former Chairman of the Board of ICANN and founding President of the Internet Society, said in a statement: “When the Internet Society won the bid to operate the .ORG registry, it enabled a productive and sustainable future for the organisation. Public Interest Registry exercised its stewardship to the benefit of the registrants and the Internet Society’s mission. I am looking forward to supporting Ethos Capital and PIR in any way I can as they continue to expand the utility of the .ORG top-level domain in creative and socially responsible ways.”

Going forward, PIR and Ethos Capital are planning to launch 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 organisations; and
  • Expanding a program to award .ORG prizes to promote the success and positive impact of non-profit organisations.

“We are excited to support PIR’s mission and build upon the incredible work it has done to promote success and positive impact for the .ORG Community,” said Erik Brooks, Founder & CEO of Ethos Capital. “As part of our commitment to setting the gold standard of registry operations, we will be establishing a Stewardship Council that will serve to uphold PIR’s core founding values and provide support through a variety of community programs.”

“Importantly, throughout the transition and beyond, we are committed to ensuring complete continuity of PIR’s operations and enhancing the relationships PIR has established over the years. We look forward to continuing PIR’s longstanding partnerships and vendor affiliations to ensure domain operations run smoothly and without interruption.”

Sources have told Domain Pulse the takeover was initiated by Ethos, who along with other interested companies approached the Internet Society and submitted proposals. But Ethos was judged to offer the best deal and be the best steward for .org and the .org community going forward.

Registrations in .org have declined in recent years to 10.1 million at the end of the first quarter of 2019, down from 10.4 million from 2 years ago, according to Verisign’s Domain Name Industry Brief. But the decline isn’t confined to .org, but rather an industry-wide trend, particularly among the legacy generic top-level domains (gTLDs), with the exception of .com. PIR also has 6 new gTLDs that have been delegated, 5 of which have entered general availability with the 2 largest being .ong and .ngo, both currently with 3,201 domains according to nTLDstats, as well as .ОРГ (1,151) being the only other with more than 1,000 registrations.

Ethos Capital describes themselves as a private investment firm focusing on companies in which technology can be used to automate, optimise and transform traditional business models into faster growing, more efficient organisations. Their founder and CEO, Erik Brooks worked at Abry Partners for 20 years before founding Ethos this year and worked on the deal that saw Abry, another private equity firm, take over Donuts, which is where it’s believed while working alongside former ICANN CEO and President Fadi Chehadé he gained an interest in the domain name industry.

In an announcement from PIR, Ethos Capital commented they are “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 organisation.”

PIR is also likely to seek to change from a not-for-profit to a for profit organisation with their announcement noting that PIR will consider seeking B Corporation certification, a certification businesses can acquire “that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”