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Username: asae
Date/Time: Wed, September 4, 2002 at 6:12 PM GMT
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Subject: ASAE Comments on .org Reassignment


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: 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 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. 

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 general.

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 ( 

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 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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