Ushering in the Dot-NGO Boom: Protecting the Online Interests of Non-Governmental Organizations

Three little letters. That's all it takes to truly make an impact for global communities online. When the Internet as we know it first launched back in 1985, domain names like .COM, .NET and .ORG quickly became a natural part of our vernacular. Every TV commercial now touts a website; we saw first-hand the dot-com boom; and our iPhones even provide a ".COM" button to save you a few extra keystrokes. In fact, I'm willing to place a pretty hefty bet that in today's digital age, most Internet users don't even think twice before typing in a domain name to make a purchase, get donation information for their preferred charity, or learn more about a potential preschool or university.

But now, the constantly evolving Internet is about to see what some might call its most significant transformation yet.

For the past two weeks, entities from around the world -- from existing domain name registries to corporations -- have been submitting applications to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to create and manage new domains. While the number of new domain names that will be approved remains unknown, more than 2,000 applications now lie in ICANN's hands for review. What does this mean for the general public? Well, in simple terms, Internet users will potentially see the likes of .NGO, .ECO and .PHARMACY joining the long standing, commonly known staples in their Google searches. And with this expansion comes great opportunity to not only strengthen an organization's reputation online but to also reach new audiences and provide online market growth in developing countries with little to no Internet presence.

That's why Public Interest Registry (PIR), just yesterday submitted an application to create and manage .NGO -- a new domain name that will exclusively serve non-governmental organizations (NGOs) worldwide. As a nonprofit serving the non-commercial community for more than a decade, PIR's core mission has always been to provide safe and trusted online opportunities to the global NGO and nonprofit community through its management of the .ORG domain. Our pursuit of .NGO is a natural extension of that mission.

Now, at the risk of stating the obvious, NGO is a universal term -- and one more frequently used in other countries than "nonprofit" or just "organization." So when our team at PIR sat down to evaluate the infinite number of domain name options that could be useful, .NGO resonated. Like .ORG, it's obviously simple yet effectively memorable. And like .COM for "commercial" or .ORG for "organization," those are inherent traits to a successful domain name.

So maybe it's time for a "dot-NGO" boom. Over the past year, my colleagues and I have traveled to all parts of the globe -- from India to Kenya -- to speak with hundreds of individuals representing NGOs about their online challenges and needs. The biggest roadblock? Being found online. Many local NGOs admittedly struggle to build effective online presences that help raise money, garner potential supporters and partners, and ultimately advance their missions -- whether for reasons of closed societies or simply because they just don't have the tools and support to get online.

We don't just want to expand the Internet for our sake or simply say that we have another domain under our management. We want to see the NGO community worldwide grow their findability online, achieve their missions and positively make an impact on their communities and countries. That's why, if approved, we intend to invest in the NGO community to offer online tools to help organizations more effectively build their presence online and capitalize on the immense power of the Internet. This "NGO Community Program" will focus specifically on NGOs in developing countries and technologically underserved markets.

At the same time, we also want to ensure that such growth doesn't come at the NGO's expense. Like .ORG, .NGO must be seen as a trusted, safe and reliable domain - one that evolves as the NGOs evolve and is administered by a fellow nonprofit who innately understands the community and the impact that can be had when you add the right three letters to the end of a web address. After all, it's the littlest of things that can make a world of difference.