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:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Address: ASAE, 1575 I Street NW, Washington, DC 20005.
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 changing.”
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.
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
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 general.
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).
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
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.
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 themselves.
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 judgment.
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