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Username: DotOrg Foundation
Date/Time: Sat, July 27, 2002 at 8:38 AM GMT
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Subject: Validation White Paper


        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. 

Whatever the 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.


Regardless 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

What 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.

Proposed Services

The DotOrg Directory

The DotOrg 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.

By having 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.

In 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 space. 


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 seeing. 

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 services.

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.
3. Each 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 non-commercial space.

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.



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