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Username: UIA / Diversitas
Date/Time: Tue, July 30, 2002 at 5:34 PM GMT (Tue, July 30, 2002 at 6:34 PM CET)
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Subject: UIA/Diversitas response to NCDHC Questions

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        We've been unable to reply to Harold Feld's post (link) so we are posting this response as a new message.

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Q1a: How will you market .org to differentiate it from other TLDs?

Our one-pager summarizing the main benefits of the UIA / Diversitas bid can be found online at http://www.diversitas.org/diversitas.org/arguments2b.php. In addition, we have encapsulated how our proposal responds directly to the ICANN selection criteria and how it benefits the various Internet stakeholders at http://www.diversitas.org/diversitas.org/criteria_response.php

The .org community has been neglected by commercial service providers, registries and registrars alike.  Whilst significant in size, .org has not developed a distinctive profile that could attract new registrants and gain long-term client loyalty, specifically from civil society.

Our bid assumes that conventional approaches to "marketing" to non-commercial registrants are of limited relevance and in many cases may be seriously counter-productive.  For this reason, our bid stresses approaches to "facilitating", "enabling" and "empowering" initiatives by .org registrants and their coalitions.

We will differentiate .org in three ways: (1) distinguish .org with a positive identity, (2) position .org as the "natural home for the non-commercial community", and (3) develop .org as the strategic space for non-profit work and a key part of their online presence.

At the heart of the Diversitas strategy is the goal of making .org the natural choice of domain for all categories of non-commercial groups.  This strategy implies a radical shift from a "registry" mindset to a "community" mindset.

"Community" is an easy word to use. In practice, however, it has multiple meanings and associations. For some, it is a loose term for a pattern of relationships that individuals and groups activate and enhance through "networking". To others, the notion of "community" assumes a degree of consensus; in the case of .org, this ignores the manifold nature of its registrants.  Those with .org domains may indeed feel membership in community in the most abstract sense, and recognise shared interests with regard to freedom of expression, security of service etc, but the truth is that .org is more a "community of communities" with a healthy sprinkling of extraordinary bodies and people thrown in.

In confronting the realities of these dynamics of difference, one challenge will be to respond creatively to the variety of "divides" that fragment the community of non-profit bodies, the principal being:
* the digital divide between those with infotech and those currently without;
* the cultural (and national) divide(s) between the dominant western style (and its association with elites in many developing countries) and the variety of indigenous styles arising as the internet extends;
* the sectoral divides, and the styles of thinking and activity associated with each;
* the linguistic divide, mainly between English (and other Latin font languages) and other scripts.
The UIA / Diversitas proposal provides for a disbursement of funds derived from income to support community-building internet initiatives for .org, especially towards narrowing the digital divide.

The image of a galaxy comes closest to visualizing the inclusive way in which UIA thinks about the .org registry community and distinguishes us from other bidders. This community (as galaxy) has:
* constellations (eg scientific, sporting, religious, professional communities)
* solar systems (eg UN, World Bank Group)
* planets with moons and rings (eg International Red Cross/Crescent, Esperanto)
* comets (spectacular entities returning to prominence periodically, eg initiatives  concerning lifestyle, ethics and belief)
* meteors (burning out as shooting stars, eg short-lived campaigns)
* asteroids (erratic or unrelated fragments)
* gas giants (eg universal peace movement, sustainable development movement)
* Kuiper Belt entities (primitive bodies, disconnected and individualistic entities)
* Oort Cloud (rejects of the solar system: little known, very remote, peripheral bodies)
* interstellar dust / cosmic debris (fringe groups / sparsely populated zones)
* dark matter (secret societies, front organizations, illegal groups)
* strong and weak forces (treaties, agreements, codes of practice, patterns of relationships)    and
* cosmic noise (inactive domains).

The .org community is not only about agreement, but also about the disagreements that are fundamental to the vitality of democratic society. Part of the challenge of distinguishing .org is to give meaningful expression to this dynamic through a more ecological sense of community. In this sense, the image of the .org community that could be realistically promoted would seek to honour both: links of commonality binding elements of the community together links of opposition holding elements of the community apart.

To do this, Diversitas will leverage UIA's 100-year legacy of research, advocacy and outreach to non-profits.  It will use information contained in the UIA database which profiles some 50,000 international not-for-profit entities (of which 23,000 have URLs), supplemented with primary research, in order to scope the community and define segments that will respond to the value created in the enhanced services.

The UIA / Diversitas proposal seeks to "make a meaningful difference" by providing a coherent operating context for the many differences within the .org community rather than imposing a token sense of community with which few can identify in practice.  In this sense, it is a "healing bid" in response to the unhealthy schisms of that community.


Q1b: In particular, how will you persuade registrars to abide by your marketing plan?

We see the co-development of .org initiatives as the form of "marketing" that best resonates with community-building and as the best guarantee of attracting more and more appropriate registrants to the .org domain.  To this end our bid seeks to develop services and to encourage their delivery by registrars and others as a pattern of outreach to potential new members of the .org community.  We believe that this approach will prove most attractive to registrants, registrars and third-party service suppliers alike.

You use the word "persuade" and we believe this is the correct approach and that the shifts will be gradual and work through market forces and transparent, open-handed practices.  For example, we will work to develop best practices guidelines with registrars serving the .org community.  Such materials will be disseminated through listserves, portals, forums and other peer media used by the non-commercial community, and through understandings forged with new and current registrars who see their interest in so doing.

Our job as .org registry operator (one we share with .org registrars) is to serve non-commercial website users.  We would include in our "community of concern" the non-profit diaspora beyond the .org domain, notably in ccTLD equivalents. This will require us to develop effective relationships with registries and the registrars marketing to such domains.  We are sensitive to the need to avoid tendencies that might undermine national initiatives that may be vital to sustaining cultural identities in countries with an emerging internet culture.

Diversitas sees its distinctive contribution as enabling registrars to add value to their existing service initiatives.  One expected feature would be the opening up of subdomains, in response to demand, to enhance the coherence of subcommunities within the .org domain (e.g. .int.org, .ngo.org, .igo.org)

Specifically for registrars, we would be proactive in:
* communicating our marketing approach and objectives;
* participating in joint codes of conduct for registrars; and
* developing new add-on services that offer significant value to .org community-building and should give purchasing registrars a competitive advantage in increasing their sales to the .org world.

For example, UIA considers knowledge management services in support of community-building to be highly dependent on enhanced services, both services delivered by the .org registry and those stimulated by it and delivered through registrars and third parties. Value-added services may include online fund-raising and membership drives, online training, online conferencing, online tools for self-organization, coalition and partnership formation, "matchmaking" tools for establishing contacts between bodies with matching interests, do-it-yourself legal and accounting packages, sharing content within communities of interest", spam protection, opt-in seal/verification and identity authentication programmes. In addition, UIA/Diversitas will ensure that multi-media techniques for visualization, sonification and classification are made available.  Whether the registry, or the registrars, or third party portals offer such services, will depend in part on their respective responsiveness to the special needs of their clients with non-commercial missions.

Finally, in providing registry services, we will not seek to undermine existing .org registrars who have already developed effective services designed specifically for the non-commercial community (nor equally to destabilize equivalent services operated with scarce resources, and much dedication, by non-profit bodies).


Q2a: How will you interact with the community?

Diversitas believes that ongoing dialogue and outreach to the community will be of enormous value to its management of the .org TLD as well as providing a means to communicate the positioning of the TLD once it is established.

As elaborated in its bid document, UIA / Diversitas understands how to talk to the non-profit community, with which is has been intimately associated with for almost 100 years.  Through UIA's existing registry activity, we are convinced that we already know .org better than any other bidder and have been a trusted broker of its information and perspectives.  And at a time when there is legitimate pressure for that self-same global non-commercial community to run the .org domain, UIA / Diversitas is both non-profit and non-US-based -- one of the two bids so distinguished.  Moreover, we have long demonstrated sensitivity to the "voices less heard" and inclusivity to those from smaller constituencies.

Early on, Diversitas will give incentives to registrars to contact current registrants of .org domain names and let them know of the forthcoming changes to the look and feel of the gTLD.  The materials will point out that these changes provide specific benefits to non-profits, and that whoever they are they will in no way be negatively impacted.  Complementary materials will be provided on the Diversitas registry website together with interactive fora and other client services.

Diversitas would develop co-marketing materials for registrars to use when talking with corporate registrants that have a number of defensive .org registrations.  The message to corporations would be to provide a "links page" of the non-profit organizations and resource pages which are associated with their activities, or to respond to civil society critiques of their practices, or to tell a story about their non-commercial activities in community activism and so become authenticated as a member of the civil society.

These communication tactics are critical because they will encourage existing registrants to embrace changes in the TLD, and should trigger rounds of dissemination of the new .org image and services through sharing with other non-profit organizations.

From its own research, 48% of organizations in the UIA registry (reflective of the non-profit sector as a whole) have domains in TLDs other than .org.  In order to attract additional registrations and enhance community, the UIA/Diversitas will use its ongoing dialogue with this audience to convey messages that an .org URL is valuable to their online presence.

Also, Diversitas will establish an online "suggestions box" for the development of "cost-free" tools and information services of value to at least a portion of the constituency.  Such customized tools may be collaboratively developed with registrants, who would then provide them to members and others, or may be delivered as registry-level tools or provided through registrars and other third parties.

In addition to all the above, we would use, as appropriate, peer advertising and marketing of .org benefits, new tools and "add-on" services using Internet forums, partner organizations that specialize in non-profit services, conferences etc.  This is particularly to reach non-profits that may not be currently part of the existing UIA registry community.  Such communication may be localised, and collaborative with ccTLDs or other gTLDs.


Q2b: What structures exist for input from the community, not merely for issues of policy, but for more run-of-the-mill matters?

UIA is establishing Diversitas as a dedicated non-profit "social purpose company" under Belgian law.  Diversitas will have non- profit shareholders, non-profit management and governance, and advisory councils comprised of civil society individuals of relevant competence to provide community feedback.  In addition, the Diversitas staff and website will provide community responsive facilities, such as fora, and we expect to host some events enabling face-to-face discussions.  So we are putting a structure in place from the start that will encourage and facilitate input from the .org community on not only policy matters but also other decisions related to providing registry services and value added services for .org.

The UIA has been operating since 1910 to "encourage and undertake all activity aimed at promoting the development and efficiency of non- governmental networks, as well as intercommunication between people working in the international framework and in interassociative co-operation" (UIA Statutes http://www.uia.org/uiaprof/conste.htm)

As an international non-profit clearing house, UIA has a statutory commitment to the non-profit community dating back to 1910 with a registry function endorsed by the UN (UN/ECOSOC Resolution 334B XI, 20 July 1950).  As such, UIA's registry is acknowledged by academic, policy and market researchers as the international authority on global civil society organizations across the diversity of every field of human activity. This work is extended by UIA's other registry activities with regard to the preoccupations, strategies, values, events, logos and executives of non-profit organizations.  Unique amongst the bidders, our journal Transnational Associations has for 50 years provided a forum for civil society perspectives.

In addition to (1) the UIA's peer organization relations in the information technology NGO world; (2) its 150 custodial members representing the interests of the global non-profit community, and (3) the interactive feedback facilities already implemented in relationship to the UIA's online databases, (4) the proposed management structure for Diversitas will provide for various opportunities for input from members of the .org community -- as well as from non-commercial organizations using other domains and those currently on the under-privileged side of the digital divide.

Finally, we expect to collaborate fruitfully with the non-commercial constituency of ICANN.  In appreciation of the role of the Non-commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency (NCDHC), Diversitas will pay up to $20,000 per year to cover the dues for the ICANN Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO).  This is to facilitate participation by non-commercial organizations that have limited funds.  Also, Diversitas will use its resources to assist the NCDHC in expanding its membership by encouraging non-commercial .org domain name registrants to join the NCDHC.  If ICANN reform efforts result in an organizational change in which there is no longer a DNSO and/or NCDHC, Diversitas would be open to support the same objectives within the reorganised ICANN.


Q3a: What will the transition look like from the end-user point of view?

End-users will not notice any transition, because of the continued use of VeriSign Global Registry Services as the technical back-end, except for the gradual introduction of new services.

From the end-users point of view, we believe that our proposal represents:
* the best "front-end" - offering the most knowledge and understanding of the global civil society and best potential to reprofile the domain to better serve the .org user
coupled to
* the best "back-end" (through a time-limited subcontracting relationship with VeriSign GRS) offering Internet users the highest operational stability and best technical solution for transition of the .org operator.

Anyone who thinks that this configuration is not the best for end-users may not have appreciated
* the risks to security and service delivery of changing both the "driver" (operator) and the "truck" (service equipment) simultaneously;
* UIA's commitment to a re-compete for a back-end service provider in three years time -- when Diversitas, as the "driver" will have implemented appropriate new policies for the .org community, which we see as the real challenge for differentiating .org; and
* that some other bidders are also likely to be obliged to enter into a transitional contractual relationship with VeriSign to fulfil ICANN's technical requirements.

We wish to add that, given its non-profit orientation, Diversitas is committed to reducing prices as circumstances permit, but puts other priorities before this.  We believe we must first invest in developing the community and provisioning it with enabling services.  Diversitas commits, exchange rates permitting, to maintain $6 as a ceiling wholesale price for core registry services even when noting economic conditions where (1) the retail price for domain registration may be six or ten-fold this amount, is beyond the wholesaler's control and subject to a highly competitive and volatile corporate environment and (2) due to trends already in train, we expect a fall in income from .org registrations before any rise due to our marketing initiatives.


Q3b: In particular, if certain services will be suspended during the transition, how will you notify registrants?

There will be no suspension


Q3c: If procedures exist for emergency updates of information, how will these work?

Any such procedures are already in place through our subcontractual arrangement described in Q3a.


Q3d: The winning bidder should understand that the majority of registrants are unsophisticated users, and should not rely on all users receiving notice until a service is interrupted.

We agree.  Moreover, given that the majority of registrants are unsophisticated users and therefore handicapped in their evaluation of the merits of the different bids, we believe that the pattern of implicit support for our activities, through our regular communications with thousands of non-profits globally, is a telling indicator of how we are viewed as a respected and respectful service partner.


       
     
     

 

Link: NCDHC Questions for .org Bidders


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