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ASAE Comments on .org Reassignment
  • To: "'org-eval@xxxxxxxxx'" <org-eval@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: ASAE Comments on .org Reassignment
  • From: Chris Vest <Cvest@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 4 Sep 2002 11:21:02 -0400

About the Author:  Jim Clarke is Senior Vice President for Public Policy and
Strategic Relations at the Washington, D.C.-based American Society of
Association Executives (ASAE), which has 25,000 association executive and
supplier members representing approximately 11,000 associations in the U.S.
and in 50 countries worldwide. Email: jclarke@asaenet.org
<mailto:jclarke@asaenet.org>. Address: ASAE, 1575 I Street NW, Washington,
DC 20005.

The Times They Are A Changing for .ORG

ICANN should avoid a rush to judgment in its .ORG reassignment decision 

By Jim Clarke

The classic Bob Dylan song says it pretty well - "The times they are a

This certainly applies to the nearly 2.5 million non-profit organizations -
including the one I represent - that own .ORG websites.  The big change
sweeping through the .ORG world comes in the form of a new worldwide master
database for .ORG websites.  

But it appears from recent news accounts that the staff at ICANN - the
International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers that oversees the
domain name system - has already recommended who the new database manager
should be.  This is no time for a rush to judgment in the selection process.

For those who don't follow every minute development in the Internet domain
name registry world, here's a snapshot of what's happening.  ICANN reached a
watershed agreement earlier this year with VeriSign - the company that
operates the global database for all .ORG domain names.  In a nutshell, the
agreement requires VeriSign to divest itself of the .ORG Registry by
December 31, 2002.

The .ORG changes are not happening in isolation.  A much larger trend toward
domain- name competition is gathering momentum.  We've recently seen the
emergence of a spate of new Top Level Domains - from .BIZ to .INFO, .NAME
and .US.  A measure of healthy competition and customer choice will do
wonders for the global domain name industry and the Internet's future in

What does all this mean for the world's vast non-commercial, not-for-profit
community?  The changes could be momentous.   Non-profits increasingly rely
on their websites as a cost-effective means to get their message out, to
provide services to members and the community, to increase awareness about
their organization, and to raise money to support their mission.  

Whoever wins the .ORG domain name Registry contract - fully eleven entities
including individual companies, partnerships and consortia submitted
proposals - will play a major role in shaping the future of .ORG and the
non-profit community more generally.  

It's not my purpose here to dissect or discuss in detail the pros and cons
of the various .ORG proposals.  Those interested in reviewing and comparing
the details of the various proposals can do so by visiting the ICANN website
(www.icann.org <http://www.icann.org>).  

My purpose here is two-fold.  First, I want to applaud ICANN's policy of
bringing competition to the domain-name industry.  Second, I want to suggest
a few broad principles that should guide ICANN as it evaluates the merits of
the various .ORG reassignment proposals.

First, we need a smooth, seamless transition.  ICANN should ensure that the
transition to the new Registry will not be disruptive to the ongoing
operations of non-profit community websites.  These sites have become
mission critical to the non-commercial community and any disruption in daily
operations would be unfortunate at the very least and potentially
disastrous.  Selecting a registry manager with proven experience would
certainly help ensure a smooth transition.

Second, the new .ORG Registry should be a neutral entity.  A number of those
who submitted .ORG Registry proposals to ICANN either represent a single
non-profit organization or a narrow slice of the noncommercial community.
Some of the bidders represent a consortium of registrars or have direct
links to VeriSign, the incumbent .ORG Registry.  ICANN should seek a .ORG
Registry that will manage .ORG in a completely fair, unbiased and balanced
manner, taking into account the interests and concerns of the entire .ORG
community, both large and small non-commercial organizations and all
segments of the registrar community.  Favoritism, cronyism and parochialism
should be avoided at all costs.

Third, .ORG must be the recognized, unambiguous home of the global,
non-profit community.  ICANN should ensure that the new .ORG Registry is
committed to taking all necessary steps to preserve and enhance the
non-commercial identity of the .ORG domain.  As the world of top-level
Internet domains becomes ever more segmented and competitive, it's essential
that we preserve the unique "branded" identity of .ORG.   Any blurring of
the lines in this regard will cause long-term damage to .ORG's identity and
impact, and to the broad non-commercial community which it symbolizes.

Fourth, .ORG should be responsive to and representative of the
non-commercial community for which it stands.  ICANN should ensure that a
broad cross section of the non-commercial community itself will play an
important advisory role in the ongoing operation of the new .ORG Registry.
Because of the growing importance of domain names and websites to
non-profits, it is imperative that the community have a powerful say in
future policies affecting all aspects of the .ORG top level domain,
including decisions concerning the technological functionality of the sites

In fact, this representation issue just might be the most important
consideration of all.  Among the 11 bidders that have applied to manage the
.ORG registry is a Washington, D.C.-based company called NeuStar.  One key
element in NeuStar's proposal is the creation of a .ORG Global Policy
Council that will give the global noncommercial community a voice in shaping
decisions and policies that could profoundly impact the "noncommercial
Internet."  The ASAE has specifically endorsed NeuStar's Global Policy
Council and fully intends to participate actively in the Council if and when
it is created.

I'm speaking out now because I believe this is a momentous decision for the
.ORG community.  I believe members of the non-profit community should become
actively engaged in the decision-making process.  Important principles are
at stake, not to mention very practical nuts-and-bolts considerations.  

To sum up:  The transition to the new .ORG Registry must be seamless; we
need to preserve and enhance .ORG's non-commercial identity; the new .ORG
Registry should be neutral, responsive to all elements of the .ORG
community; and the non-profit community itself should play a role in shaping
future .ORG policies through the establishment of a Global Policy Council.

Those of us in the non-commercial community have a great deal riding on the
.ORG reassignment decision.  Yes, the times are changing for .ORG.  But the
answer isn't just blowing in the wind.  The answer - and the future of .ORG
- rests at least in part with the noncommercial community itself.  This is a
call to action.  We all need to get involved, share our views with ICANN,
and help ensure that ICANN makes the right decision and avoids a rush to

# # #

Chris Vest
Manager, Media Relations
American Society of Association Executives
1575 I St. NW
Washington, D.C.20005
Phone: (202) 626-2798
Fax: (202) 371-1673
E-mail: cvest@asaenet.org
ASAE's Web address: http://www.asaenet.org

ASAE's core purpose is to advance the value of voluntary associations to
society and to support the professionalism of the individuals who lead them.

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