Here Comes ‘dot NGO’

For two and a half decades the Internet has connected and informed millions of people across the globe. It’s now easier than ever to join a community, spread the word about a cause or be part of something much bigger than yourself. There is no longer a need to rely exclusively on traditional media. The Net has fundamentally changed the way in which we communicate, and this has particular relevance in a region like ASEAN, with many countries separated even internally by island geography. But the Internet as we currently know it is changing. In addition to the web domain names we’re all familiar with – such as .org, .com and .net – hundreds of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are joining the online world. In fact, more than 1,000 new top-level domain names, the likes of which are expected to include .eco, .charity and .london for example, will go live over the next 12-18 months.

The rollout of new gTLDs will enhance competition in the registration of domain names and create more choice online for consumers. While the domain names we are familiar with already give us some idea about the type of information we expect to see on a web page, this latest expansion has the potential to change how organizations communicate and connect with their audiences online. One particularly innovative idea comes from Public Interest Registry, the group I represent and the people who have successfully run .org for over a decade. We are seeking to address the special needs of the non-governmental organization, (NGO) community.

The Internet has already proven a powerful tool for NGOs, allowing them to share their causes and successes with the world and to connect with and encourage potential donors. However, the structure of the Internet has not allowed these organizations to differentiate themselves as effectively as they would like. NGOs can be hard to find online and often struggle to connect with one another.

We at Public Interest Registry have seen first-hand the impact a trustworthy, reliable and secure domain can have on advancing a cause. And while the .org domain gives many causes a voice and a platform online, this new expansion of the top level domain system gives us a chance to do even more. That’s why we are launching two new closely linked domains this year to exclusively serve the global NGO and non-profit community – .ngo and .ong (.ong is designed to accommodate so-called Romance languages such as Spanish, French, Portuguese, etc. It will be directly linked to .ngo which is designed for those who prefer to use English).

Public Interest Registry has consulted widely among the NGO community with the aim of meeting their specific needs. The new domains are deliberately being designed to be “for and of” the international NGO community. One key challenge shared by all is how becoming more visible online and building the sort of trusted presence that is so critical to raising money, rallying supporters, finding partners and ultimately advancing a mission.

The .ngo|.ong domains, launching in the second half of 2014, will be exclusively for validated genuine NGOs from all sectors and of all sizes, big or small, new or well-established, global or local in their reach. These domains are designed specifically to help NGOs build their online presence and establish trust and credibility as genuine members of the global NGO community.

In an effort to further strengthen the connections of and among NGOs around the world, .ngo|.ong domain holders will be included in a searchable directory that includes a customizable online profile, enabling each organization to showcase its cause and communicate with partners, funders and the public. Importantly, this profile will include links to social media and the ability to safely and securely collect donations.

The general introduction of new Top Level Domains to the Internet has allowed Public Interest Registry to launch this novel approach to meeting the specific needs of a distinct and global on-line community. That this has been built in such close cooperation with the global non-governmental community must improve its chances of success. Organizations and individuals who rely on the Internet to reach their customers, fans and stakeholders can look forward to this opportunity to better define and market themselves online. This is truly a step change in the organization of the Internet and an opportunity not to be missed.

Brian Cute is the CEO of Public Interest Registry. He visited Indonesia and other countries recently to introduce .ngo to local NGO communities.