VIII. Differentiation of the .org TLD

C38. Describe any measures you propose to make to differentiate the .org TLD from TLDs intended for commercial purposes. Your proposal should describe in detail any planned marketing practices designed to differentiate the .org TLD, promote and attract registrations from the global noncommercial community, and minimize defensive and duplicative registration.

The .org TLD is on the one hand highly successful, having a base of existing registrations totaling close to 2.6 million and firmly established in fourth position worldwide. However, .org has not yet succeeded in establishing for itself the unique profile that would enable it to gain long-term client loyalty specifically for civil society.

As we embark upon initiatives aimed at repositioning .org and attracting new registrants, our underlying strategy will be to achieve the following:

  • Convey clear messages that resonate within the non-profit community concerning the impact that enhanced services provided in .org can have on their organizations.
  • Leverage UIA's 100-year legacy of research, advocacy and outreach to non-profits, to reaffirm that the .org TLD is a "natural home" as it most closely represents the global interests of the non-profit community, and should therefore be a key part of any online presence that they establish.
  • Utilize the information contained in the UIA registry on the profiles of not-for-profit entities (and later supplemented with primary research), in order to define segments of the community that will respond to the value created in the enhanced services and image present within the new .org.
  • Remain sensitive to the needs of international members of the not-for-profit community by showing how .org can be a compliment to their organizations online presence without undermining any localization efforts being executed using ccTLDs.

This strategy builds upon the following observations:

  • The non-profit sector is itself highly diverse (See Figure C38-1). There is thus no reason to divest the TLD of clients with a different profile, who can continue to be served efficiently even though they are not prime candidates for new services.
  • There currently exists a bias in favour of U.S.-based organizations, which is reasonable in a historical context since U.S. non-profits were pioneers of Internet use. However, a persistence of this view will fail to address the large number of potential users of .org that exists outside the U.S. and as yet remains untapped.

Initiatives to Foster Differentiation

The most critical element for a campaign intended to differentiate the .org TLD is in repositioning the TLD in the mind of prospective registrants. To achieve this differentiation, Diversitas intends to quickly execute several functional initiatives in order to frame a new image of .org within the non-profit community. Functional initiatives are an important component that must be embedded within any effective, proactive strategy to re-establish a public image of .org as a "natural" community - albeit with highly diverse membership. Indeed, it may be the diversity itself, which is the outstanding hallmark of the .org community.

The following represents highlights of tactics that would be deployed to differentiate .org if UIA / Diversitas were awarded the contract to provide registry services.

  • Conduct primary research on the not-for-profit community to augment inferences that will be drawn from the profile data contained in the UIA registry.
  • Define segments within the non-profit space that may be responsive to with specific value propositions.
  • Work with a creative or branding agency to create a distinctively new identity for .org that places substantial distance from its U.S. centric past.
  • Utilize enhanced services such as authentication technology to stratify non-profits from commercial entities within the .org TLD.

Research: Learn What the Not-for-Profit Community Wants from the TLD

We know that non-profits do not think of themselves as a market and many do not appreciate being "marketed to". We will use the term "marketing" infrequently and always intend it to mean one or more of: (1) general offering of distinctive "cost-free" tools and information services of demonstrated value to at least a portion of the constituency; (2) special offering of customized services requested by .org registrants, and perhaps collaboratively developed with them (these may be registry-level tools or provided through registrars and other third parties); (3) peer "advertising" and "marketing" of .org benefits and new tools and "add-on" services, using internet forums, partner organizations that specialize in non-profit services, and the like; and (4) crafting the image and feel of the .org domain as "the natural home for civil society".

Diversitas confronts the "marketing" challenge to reposition the .org TLD to the civil society sector, it recognizes the need to gain greater insight into determining the key benefits that this community requires/expects from the .org TLD. It is recognized that determining these benefits requires a thorough understanding of the registrant, their decision-making processes and cues to which they will respond. In order to acquire this understanding, Diversitas plans to conduct primary research across the not-for-profit sector to obtain their answers to the questions such as:

  • What are the primary attributes you would like to see within .org that would motivate your organization to register a domain name within that TLD?
  • What new services would have the greatest impact on their decision to register a .org domain name?
  • What are some features/attributes in other TLDs that have prompted some members of the not-for-profit community to register domain names ending with extensions other than .org, if not for the purposes of greater localisation?

The UIA / Diversitas has an excellent basis for conducting such research in that it maintains profiles of around 50,000 international non-profit bodies, and some nationally focused bodies that may be considered part of that community. Additionally, UIA has been conducting research within the non-profit organizations market for nearly 100 years. Diversitas intends to field surveys across the civil sector, and build upon some of the following facts concerning those organizations that currently have a domain name:

  • They are all represented or have activities in more than one country - some in more than 100 countries.
  • Most of them have significant international communications activities. The bodies in this international community have been moving rapidly across the digital divide since the establishment of the web, as information technology became accessible. Such technology is vital to their ability to communicate with their members at reasonable cost. Of 30,000 such bodies, some 23,000 (or 77%) now have URLs.
  • National non-profits (outside the U.S.) have similar needs but are even less likely to have chosen to use the .org TLD. In other respects, the internationals may give a good indication of the growth potential and challenge posed by the nationals
  • International bodies may well be hosted by national organizations (notably using ccTLDs), or within a complex web site, and of the more than 20,000 that were examined, only 48% had registered a domain name ending with .org, while another 52% had done so using either another gTLD or a ccTLD. (see Figure C38-1)

    Figure C38-1: Non-profit Domain Registration

Segmentation of .org "Community"

At the heart of the Diversitas strategy is the goal of making .org as a natural choice for all categories of non-commercial groups by creating a sense of shared identity or community. 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 perfectly adequate as a loose term to apply to a pattern of undefined associations that individuals and groups activate and enhance through "networking". The telephone system and e-mail are ideal technologies to support community. Services to the .org community can indeed limit themselves to focusing on web equivalents.

The notion of "community" by its very nature tends to focus on, and assume, a degree of consensus. It ignores the basic fact that for many bodies in .org their main concern is to counteract and oppose the initiatives of other bodies in that same domain. Such opposition may be basic to their sense of distinct identity and the prime reason for their distinct existence and expression on the web. There may indeed be a recognition of shared membership in community in the most abstract sense, and shared interest with regard to freedom of expression, but the lack of consensus across sectors and ideologies is a fundamental issue in responding to the realities of the dynamics within that "community". In confronting the realities of these dynamics, the challenge will be to respond creatively to the variety of "divides" that fragment the community of non-profit bodies:

  • The digital divide
  • The cultural divide between the dominant western style, and its association with elites in many developing countries, and the variety of alternative styles, the sectoral divide, and the styles of thinking and activity associated with each the linguistic

The challenge is also to give meaningful expression to this more ecological sense of community. The .org community is not only about agreement, but also about the disagreements that are fundamental to the vitality of democratic society. It is unacceptable to develop a "marketing strategy" based on the assumption that the .org community is composed of those who agree with a set of principles selected by a particular coalition - and that all who do not agree with them should be encouraged to move elsewhere. The .org community is not homogenous. It might be better understood as made up of "communities" with different identities and operating mindsets - often valiantly struggling to sustain their uniqueness and resist its dilution by other cultural forces.

In this sense, the image of the .org community that could be realistically promoted would indicate both:

  • Links of commonality binding elements of the community together
  • Links of opposition holding elements of the community apart

Figure C38-2 includes imagery consistent with the idea of contrasting and complementary communities which constitute a larger community The goal would be to provide services that honour such practical lived realities of organizational life and to show how these two complementary forces enable the emergence of a larger, more coherent, superordinate structure beyond the preoccupations of individual organizations and sectors. A key factor in responding creatively to the destructive dynamics that renders coalitions unsustainable would be to enable self-organizing dynamics that use such complementarity to avoid the need for any central organization to hold the community together.

Images of contrasting and complementary communities -
constituting a larger community

The .org community should have access to interactive services that configure relationships between disparate organizations, issues, values and strategies. The intention is to provide imaginative conceptual templates and scaffolding for new forms of partnership and coalition in support of community building and social coherence - especially in cases of radical opposition between perspectives. The individual elements of such images would be clickable as an aid to navigation and exploration of pathways of significance.

Black background images provided by Karl Erickson and Gerald de Jong of the Struck community; the other by Anthony Judge


Figure C38-2

Positioning .org Based on Segmentation

In view of the diversity among not-for-profit organizations, Diversitas intends to utilize its knowledge of segmentation across this space in order to redefine the positioning and imagery now associated with .org. In doing so, Diversitas will leverage feedback from its forums with the non-profit community to create a strong image in support of .org being a natural home for the non-profit "community", and also address some latent issues that have been previously associated with .org.

Diversitas must convey a message that resolves the relationship between the "registry" mindset and the "community". The technologies required for a registry to work must necessarily be very narrowly focused on the identification of an entity - and "untainted" by its perceived status in the community. However, this very lack of ambiguity renders the management and effective use of millions of URLs satisfactory to all. Excluded from registry technology is any information that reflects the structure of community. The list structure and dynamics of a registry (like a telephone directory) does not in itself make for community.

Thus positioning of the .org community needs to be considered in the light of the following:

  • What is meant by civil society in limiting understanding of the many dimensions of the .org community
  • Data indicative of the community of which only .org can be a focus
  • How the notion of "community" can be enhanced in relation to .org
  • How promotion of .org can be associated with community building and vision
  • Issues in image-building: conveying the image, flavour or philosophy of the whole approach

Additionally, Diversitas is careful to address some of the latent issues that have been previously associated with .org.

  • "Property" issues:


    • Movements in favour of "cleaning up" .org


    • Legacy "possession" of .org URLs by some perceived as "undesirable"


  • Exclusive marketing strategies, exacerbating unfair competition and undermining initiatives of non-profit bodies in the .org and associated communities


    • Privileging particular suppliers of web services, creating a monopoly situation that inhibits supply of web services by others


    • Destabilizing and undermining existing suppliers of web services
  • Marketing to the non-profit "diaspora" beyond the .org domain, notably to ccTLD equivalents


    • Requiring effective relationships with bodies supporting such domains


    • Promoting .org responsibly to avoid tendencies to undermine national initiatives that may be vital to sustaining cultural identities in emerging countries


  • Embodying democratic principles of responsiveness and transparency


    • Recognizing the absence of tested models adequate for a global multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-sectoral community significantly characterized by divisive dynamics


    • Recognizing the natural resistance of independent ("sovereign") sectoral organizations to conscription into apparent membership of a managed inter-sectoral community


    • Ensuring that efforts to embody democratic principles do not undermine the basic registry function

The key question with regard to any .org strategy -- or with regard to any democratic structure to manage the .org registry and associated enabling services -- is not what is explicitly included, but what is implicitly or inadvertently excluded.

Common Term Effectively Excludes
(in common usage - indicative only)
 civil society organizations (CSOs) scientific, technical, trade associations, sport bodies, for-profit membership bodies
voluntary associations paid staff bodies, professional membership, corporate membership, obligatory membership
Citizens movements  institutionalized bodies, collective membership
non-profit organizations self-financing bodies, for-profit membership
non-governmental bodies (NGOs) technical groups of government officials, government-established/funded bodies, hybrid bodies
third sector bodies trade associations, hybrid bodies between government/business/nonprofit, and notably international nonprofits
independent sector bodies government or business "front" organizations
development organizations  bodies other than humanitarian or field-level development bodies
humanitarian / relief bodies bodies with longer-term functions: scientific, professional, interest-group, etc
political organizations, liberation movements, exile associations  non-political bodies
kinship, family, tribal and ethnic associations  
non-commercial bodies trade associations, chambers of commerce, for-profit membership bodies
advocacy and pressure groups, and lobbying groups interest groups without any advocacy role
peer group networks, secret societies open membership bodies
scholarly societies  non-academic bodies
professional associations  open membership bodies
virtual communities, usenet groups, user groups face-to-face organizations, bodies beyond the digital divide
societal networks Centers
intentional communities, sects non-residential communities
appreciation groups, fan (celebrity) clubs  
trade associations, business associations, chambers of commerce not-for-profit membership bodies
activity groups, performance groups, sports bodies, outdoor associations non-physical groups

See also: NGOs and Civil Society - Some Realities and Distortions: the challenge of "Necessary-to-Governance Organizations" (NGOs) (1994); Interacting Fruitfully with Un-Civil Society: the dilemma for non-civil society organizations (1996)

Enhanced Services

UIA will continually explore various enhanced services that have the potential to benefit end users in the not-for-profit community. UIA has been an active proponent of increasing the level of technology innovation and, through Diversitas, has planned a set of enhanced services that will benefit registrants as well as help to refocus the image of .org TLD.

One of the more exciting initiatives is an opt-in seal (authentication) program geared exclusively to the non-profit community. While .org will not be a closed TLD, a program intends to provide a level of stratification of registrants without imposing new practices on any organization using an existing .org domain name. Under the program, a time-stamped seal will be visible only on those URLs wherein its registrant has undergone an authentication process that verifies their organization to be a not-for-profit entity. The benefits to the registrant of this program become readily evident with online fundraising, but clearly this service will help to distinguish who's who and raise the expectations within the Internet community of what .org is all about.

We propose to further complement this offering with other enhanced services. These offerings have already been discussed in detail, and a complete list may be found in Section C25 and Section C26.

Promote and Attract Registrations from Non-profits

Through the effective promotion of the .org TLD, Diversitas intends to spur renewed growth in registrations and also build awareness for its repositioning as 'The' gTLD home of the non-profit community. To be successful, Diversitas must significantly raise awareness levels and will most likely be executed in phases so as to apply resources and focus in the most effective manner. The programs are intended to target members of the global civil society, and will specifically focus on raising awareness of .org across both governmental and non-governmental organizations that have non-commercial missions.

Given the challenges associated with reaching a global audience, the promotional campaign will be executed in three phases that are in alignment with channels used to reach the non-profits. The promotion of .org will be conducted through the following venues: ICANN registrars, Diversitas registry outreach and global media.

Phase 1: ICANN Registrar Programs

The goal of the registrar programs will be to reach the existing .org registrants prior to the release of enhanced services.

Diversitas will give incentives to registrars to contact current registrants of .org domain names and advise them of the forthcoming changes to the gTLD. The marketing materials will be clear to point out that these changes will provide specific benefits to them, if they are a non-profit, and that they will in no way be negatively impacted.

  • Registrars will be able to provide them with information concerning Diversitas and on its long standing history of working with non-profits
  • Descriptions of the seal program and other enhanced services will also be provided along with a feature-benefits matrix.

UIA will also encourage registrars to raise .org in their drop-down list of TLDs, so that prospective registrants may find it more easily when attempting to register a domain name. Additionally, it is intended that UIA will convince registrars to rotate messages that announce the new positioning and changes to .org, within their retail web sites.

UIA is developing 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 use their .org names as sites for their favourite charities or to tell their own story about their non-commercial activities in community activism and become authenticated as a member of the civil society. Otherwise, the need for defensive registrations in .org no longer offer any real benefit.

These tactics are critical because they will be effective at encouraging existing registrants to embrace changes in the TLD, and position them to become early spokespersons for enhanced services as they create buzz by sharing their experiences with other non-profit organizations.

Phase 2: Diversitas Outreach

The goal of this program is to raise awareness among the 48% of organizations in the UIA registry (that are reflective of the non-profit sector as a whole) that have domains in TLDs other than .org, in order to attract additional registrations. Given UIA's ongoing dialogue with this audience, it is desired that this group be reached prior to the .org relaunch under its new administration. It is believed that this group may be reached most quickly and that Diversitas can credibly convey messages to this audience advising that an .org URL is crucial to their online presence.

  • In view of the existence of UIA's registry, Diversitas will be able to tailor specific offers that utilize both .org and their registry of non-profits, such as: General offering of distinctive "cost-free" tools and information services of demonstrated value to at least a portion of the constituency
  • Special offering of customized services requested by .org registrants, and perhaps collaboratively developed with them (may be registry-level tools or provided through registrars and other third parties)
  • Peer advertising and marketing of .org benefits, new tools and "add-on" services using Internet forums, partner organizations that specialize in non-profit services, etc.

Phase 3: Trade Show Sponsorships and Global Media Campaigns

While Diversitas currently tracks a large number of trade shows and conferences that are attended by non-profit organizations where it can promote .org, it is crucial to its long-term success to build awareness through print and online media, if it is to cover the globe. It is desired that this phase of the program begin after the re-launch of .org.

The key goals of this phase of the promotional push are to:

  • Address the need to establish a broader reach in conveying the positioning message that .org is the natural home for non-profits and should be a complement to any online presence they now have
  • Allow for localisation of message to be controlled in areas where strong national initiatives drive adoption of ccTLDs or .gov
  • Focus on other non-profits that may not be currently part of the community that exists under UIA

Outreach to the UIA Base

Marketing to non-profits, or by them, tends to require a "soft-sell" approach rather than the kind of "hard-sell" more acceptable in commercial transactions - if the relationship with, and between bodies within that community, is to be enhanced and new services are to be welcomed. Diversitas also sees its distinctive contribution as enabling registrars to add value rather than undermining existing service initiatives and in some way locking them out of their possibility to offer web services.

Diversitas' ongoing dialogue and outreach to the community is of enormous value in responding to their critical needs and concerns related to the management of the .org TLD as well as providing a means to communicate the positioning of the TLD once it is established. In short, UIA / Diversitas understands how to attract the non-profit community and has an existing system in place for outreach. In view of this, the approach to be undertaken is distinguished in terms of the following components:

  • Provision of enhanced registry services:


    • Designed to enable self-organization, coalition and partnership formation, and contacts between bodies with matching interests


    • Designed to minimize destabilization of equivalent services operated with scarce resources, and much dedication, by non-profit bodies


  • Marketing of the registry as a strategic opportunity for non-profit organizations:


    • Branding of the registry as a multi-dimensional community space, for example through appropriate imagery inviting comment from the .org community


    • Opening up subdomains in response to demand to enhance the coherence of subcommunities within that domain (e.g.,,,


    • Marketing to registrars and in support of them


    • Marketing of verification and authentication facilities


  • Assisting existing suppliers of web services, in relation to the .org domain and the ccTLD domain equivalents to .org


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