Today ICANN, which is the nonprofit, non-governmental organization that coordinates the Internet naming system, is opening up an application process for established companies, organizations or institutions can apply to manage a .ANYTHING.
They aren’t opening up the opportunity to own a Top Level Domain (TLD) to just anyone. Excluded are individuals, sole proprietors or yet-to-be-formed entities. And the bar is set reasonably high, with a $185K fee and a 300-page application.
The managers of a TLD are not necessarily the people with whom you have registered your web address, like like Network Solutions, GoDaddy and thousands of others. Instead, these “managers” of TLDs provide the “plumbing” of the Internet.
Anytime you put a .COM into a web browser, Verisign is making sure it reaches its destination. Similarly, anytime you put a .ORG in, the Public Interest Registry is behind it.
We all just expect these things to work. You probably aren’t all that interested in how a DNS resolves or the infrastructure required to bring the webpage you want to your browser.
How this Affects Non-Profits
One of the clients I have been working with at Zoetica is the Public Interest Registry, or PIR. Working with them has given me a further insight into this historic time for the Internet.
PIR, which is itself a nonprofit, is the current manager of the .ORG extension, and was formed to run it as a community-driven asset. PIR is applying to run a new .NGO domain that would be reserved for nonprofits. However, with any open application process, there is a risk that others might also apply for this new extension.
ICANN allows applicants to gather community support to bolster their case, and PIR is asking nonprofit managers from all over the world to support their application for this TLD.
The nonprofit community has banded together to support PIR, and I have included a number of posts from various nonprofit leaders in support of PIR at the end of this post. If you work at a nonprofit, exclusively with nonprofits, or serve on a board of a nonprofit you can sign the petition here.
How this Affects Companies
Generic Top Level Domain Program For Brands
It’s all about branding!
I expect some big companies to be thinking of getting their own TLD and running it. Think .PEPSI or .COCACOLA. From a marketing perspective, these domains will allow for some clever advertising opportunities and make it easier to get the Internet names they need. The only fights for names will be internal.
For category-type names, like .LUXURY or .BANK or .HEALTHCARE, it will require industry support. Also, no one can get your brand’s TLD without your explicit agreement.
If and when a category name comes open, you will have to determine if it will make sense for your business and if it is run by a reputable organization. A good example of a current domain name with some concerns is the .ly extension, which is run by the Libyan government. The popular shorter bit.ly is on this TLD. But as this website explains, Libya could choose to shut down any site with an .ly extension for almost any reason.
The Campaign for .NGO
Here is some more information about the campaign for .NGO, including an short petition to sign.
Other coverage and support of .NGO
Here are some of the most influential voices in the nonprofit community in support of PIR’s bid for .NGO.
Petition: Protect your brand and domain name, via CauseVox
Give a New Year's Gift to Nonprofits Worldwide, via Waxing Unlyrical
Save the .NGO Domain for Nonprofits – Online Fundraising, Advocacy, and Social Media –, via Froogloop, Care2
It's the Little Things That Count in Social Fundraising | Inspiring Generosity, via Razoo
Exclusive Domain for Nonprofits: .NGO – Purple-Power, via Avectra
.ORG vs .NGO: How New Domain Names Can Help Your Brand | GoodWorks, via Advertising Age
IMPORTANT: Help make sure .NGO remains in nonprofit hands — SocialFish, via Maddie Grant
Say ‘Happy New Year’ to nonprofits worldwide with one click, via Socialbrite