Validation White Paper
The .org Internet space, traditionally
the home of non-profits and others engaged in non-commercial speech, has improved
the ability of people around the world to communicate, share ideas and form alliances.
Civil rights groups, faith-based organizations, charitable foundations, and many
other non-commercial organizations use a domain name ending with .org to establish
their web presence and, in some cases, their only presence.
impact of the Internet on non-commercial organizations, the potential of the .org
space is clearly not being achieved. Whether it is to register their domain name
or conduct transactions, organizations and individuals are failing to turn to the
.org space as much as we believe they might. One fact, above all, demonstrates the
challenge: The number of active .org domains is declining even as the number of non-commercial
entities steadily grows.
To meet this challenge, the DotOrg Foundation proposes
to develop new services that we believe will involve and excite the worldwide community
of organizations and individuals who are engaged in non-commercial speech. These
services rest on our understanding of two key problems that beset the .org space.
of their differences, all non-commercial organizations have something in common:
They survive on the trust accorded them by their supporters and the general public.
With so many high-profile cases of fraud and accounting irregularities at leading
non-commercial organizations, the public is understandably wary: Is that group real?
Is that web site real? Will my donation be well spent?
The DotOrg Foundation
believes that we can create trust within the .org space. By doing so, by offering
services that will help non-profit organizations protect what is really the coin
of their realm - trust - we will demonstrate to those organizations that they should,
that they must, participate fully in the .org space.
The .Org Difference
does it mean to be a ".org"? It is not evident that there is an agreed answer.
It is this lack of clear differentiation that diminishes the potential for the
.org domain and undermines its future. The answer to the .org domain's problems does
not lie simply in the purchase of advertisement or the mounting of public relations
campaigns. Rather, the way to differentiate the .org domain is to support organizations
and individuals engaged in non-commercial speech with services that make it easier
for them to pursue their goals.
The richness of the .org community, moreover,
extends far beyond the boundaries of any one nation. The services to be provided
through the .org TLD must reflect the needs and challenges to be found in Africa
as well as America, in Central Asia as well as Western Europe. Indeed, even
within the developed societies, there are under-served communities whose members
have much to offer the global .org space. Our challenge is to help them to fully
participate as well.
In sum, it can mean something to be a .org. We propose
to create that meaning.
The DotOrg Directory
Foundation believes that the initial step to address the issues of trust and differentiation
is the creation of a database containing pertinent information about non-commercial
organizations with .org domains. Inclusion in the database is optional and free to
all .org domain holders, but the value of being in the database will be realized
specifically by non-commercial organizations.
Information provided by each organization
will be collected through a participating registrar and stored centrally by the DotOrg
Foundation. The non-commercial organization will have the option to provide as much
of the requested information about itself as it wishes (e.g., address, website, mission)
during registration, or any time thereafter during the registration term.
reliable and readily available information about the group whose site they are reading,
members of the public will have added confidence that they are interacting with an
organization that they can call or even visit if they have questions. This database
is the first step in building trust with the public through the .org domain.
addition, after consultation with ICANN, registrars, and registrants, the Foundation
may help to distribute this information to wider audiences through partnerships with
data providers. One such partner may be GuideStar which licenses data about U.S.
non-profits to donor-advised funds such as Fidelity (which has given over US$2.8
billion in grants), giving portals such as Network for Good (which has processed
over US$22 million in donations since 1999 for over 8,000 non-profits), community
foundations, and state regulators. Licensees use GuideStar and other similar databases
to provide comprehensive information to their own members or the wider public as
they research which organization to support.
By helping to disseminate basic information
about non-commercial organizations, we will be providing a valuable service - to
both the organizations and their supporters. By laying this foundation of organizational
transparency, moreover, we will be promoting the creation of new Internet portals
that can provide information about non-commercial organizations around the world.
By this simple, yet key step - the creation of the optional DotOrg Directory - the
DotOrg Foundation will be generating new value for .org registrants, creating market
distinction for the .org domain, and increasing the likelihood that those engaged
in non-commercial activities will register .org sites and participate in the .org
In developed and developing nations alike,
there is wide understanding that non-commercial organizations are essential to the
building of a vibrant civil society. Whether they are called non-commercial organizations,
charities, non-profit organizations, or NGOs, they are growing rapidly in number
and impact. The public - often called upon for financial and political support -
increasingly seeks information about the validity of the groups approaching them.
While the Internet is clearly a powerful means for organizations to talk about themselves,
the public is looking for more. They want confirmation about the claims they are
The DotOrg Foundation seeks to support those who provide that confirmation.
Validators, as we choose to name them, come in many forms. They are often non-commercial
groups themselves, perhaps based at a university, perhaps part of a trade association.
Some are independent watchdog groups; others are divisions of state or federal governments.
Whatever their form, validators provide independent, trusted advice to the public.
As civil society more and more turns to non-commercial organizations, the reassurance
offered by independent validators will become more and more valuable. And, as the
need for such validation grows, we believe the .org TLD can become an important contributor.
Given the range of validation already in existence, we recognize the need
to proceed carefully, in full dialogue with those already performing this important
service. The DotOrg Foundation intends to work closely with such validators as the
Better Business Bureau, the National Charities Information Bureau, federations of
the Combined Federal Campaign, the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy and others in
North America; with Charities Aid Foundation, InterAction, the Synergos Institute,
the Union of International Associations, German Charities Institute and others worldwide.
Only by knowing what these established validators need can we build truly effective
That said, based on the experience offered by members of our board of
directors and discussions with leaders from established validators, we can outline
here the services we expect to develop:
1. The DotOrg Foundation will identify
qualified validators that non-commercial organizations can use to review and certify
aspects of their operation. Such validators may be trade associations, federations,
independent watchdog groups, and so forth.
2. The DotOrg Foundation will provide
to all registrars the list of qualified validators, with a description of the service
each validator is offering and a wholesale price being charged by that validator.
We anticipate that the wholesale price will range widely, based upon the extent and
type of validation and the conditions of the competitive marketplace.
registrar will be free to offer as a retail product the service of one or more of
the approved validators. Registrars will be free to select validators whose services
they wish to offer. They will be free to charge more than the wholesale price, thereby
generating their own added revenue. Registrars will also be free to decline to participate
in the validation program.
4. .Org registrants wishing to be validated through
the DotOrg Foundation program will select one or more validators through the registrar.
Depending upon the nature of the validation itself, registrants may be asked to provide
information electronically through a dedicated section of the DotOrg Foundation web
site or contact the validator directly.
5. Validators will inform the DotOrg Foundation
electronically when a registrant has been validated. The Foundation will inform the
validated group of its validation, offering a DotOrg Seal which the group may display
on its web site. Individuals visiting the web site will be able to click on the seal
to learn details of the validation.
We believe that the DotOrg Validation
program will expand the number of validators worldwide while providing both current
and new validators with the needed infrastructure to more efficiently do their jobs.
We propose to build upon the relationships that registrars already have with registrants,
providing them a new and valuable product. Working with established validators, we
propose to develop a program that is simple for registrars, registrants and web site
visitors to use, a program that encourages transparency and accountability in the
The process will be simple and integrated into the registration
process already familiar to registrars and registrants. We will provide on-line forms
to collect information through the current toolkit, methods to post the results of
the validation into the DotOrg Database, billing and payment systems for validations,
and secure certificates that can assure a person that she or he is on the right site
for the non-commercial organization. We will also develop the necessary marketing
so that all who potentially can benefit - registrants, validators, registrars and
the public - will know of and understand the opportunity being offered.