The Union of International Associations (UIA) proposes a solution for the operation of the .org TLD that combines the strategic leadership of an organization ideally qualified to represent the needs and interests of the global civil society/non-profit ("civil society") community, with a proven technical solution.
UIA has spent nearly 100 years studying, analysing, supporting and serving the global civil society community, the target market for the future of the .org TLD. An international non-profit organization based in Brussels, Belgium, UIA is the authoritative "registry" for over 50,000 international organizations and constituencies, publishing the leading directory of information on global civil society networks. In addition, UIA maintains interrelated databases on over 56,000 world problems and 33,000 organizational action strategies. The result is a unique and unmatched appreciation of the diversity of these organizations and their goals, challenges and activities. No other entity has invested as much effort in gathering information about civil society organizations around the world, understanding their concerns and enhancing knowledge systems in support of their activities. Our leadership is truly international in make-up and reads like a who's who of civil society/non-profit experts.
Understanding of the Needs and Future of the .org TLD
The .org TLD has become one of the largest and most recognised TLDs on the Internet. Still, it has not yet succeeded in establishing for itself the unique profile that would enable it to both gain long-term client loyalty and enter into constructive dialogue on the potential for, and viability of, services specifically tailored for civil society. As a result there are many in this critical community, particularly outside of the United States, who have not been able to capitalise on the power of the Internet to accomplish their goals. We will foster a differentiated TLD, which packages a variety of useful tools for the global civil society community and enhances their access. This will create a tremendous opportunity to stimulate growth in the TLD, both of registrations, use and overall value to the registrant.
To realise the full potential of the .org TLD, the new Registry Operator must:
UIA is ideally situated to meet these needs most effectively for the .org community. If awarded the reassignment of the .org TLD, UIA will create an independent non-profit subsidiary, Diversitas, to be the .org operator. Diversitas will be a shareholder partnership of non-profit organizations, served by outstanding executive and advisory boards.
UIA Background and Qualifications
Since its founding in 1910, UIA has focused on programmes oriented singularly toward the community of international civil society associations, the heart of the .org TLD, whose actions they are designed to facilitate, whether through special studies or through new uses of information. It has chronicled the diverse landscape of civil society organizations, documenting their charters and challenges, building their capacity to accomplish goals and helping them overcome obstacles often resulting from modest funding, inadequate awareness and lack of technical know-how, on a global scale covering over 130 countries around the world.
For over half a century, UIA has published the de facto registry of international organizations - the centrepiece and prime user group for the .org domain. The Yearbook of International Organizations is the most authoritative directory in the world about civil society organizations, their mission, structure, projects, working relationships and contact information.
One of the most favourable results of this open and long-standing collaboration with the organization community is the established trust and respect that exists for the UIA in its role as neutral "re-presenter" and facilitator of its constituency. Such a strong level of trust will be critical for the gathering of support and feedback required to make the .org TLD a more central part of the civil society's mission.Within the civil society community, there is no single entity more knowledgeable than UIA in:
With the understanding that above all else ICANN seeks to ensure the stability of the .org TLD, UIA and its technical and service partners (UIA Team) have formulated a comprehensive plan to use established and proven technology infrastructure to manage the technical operation ("backend") of the TLD.
The UIA Team's technical infrastructure includes global facilities and systems, all of which feature state-of-the-art security, availability, redundancy and connectivity with performance well beyond the service level requirements articulated by ICANN. In order to maximize the stability of the .org TLD, to minimize transition efforts on the part of registrars and to allow UIA to focus primarily on the mobilization of the civil society community around the .org TLD, the UIA Team includes VeriSign Global Registry Services (VGRS) as the technical operations provider for the first three years of the proposed six-year contract.
After UIA has assumed .org TLD leadership in the civil society community, it will then be appropriate to evaluate and plan transition of technical resources to other service providers of back-end services. UIA will start planning for the subcontracting re-compete well before the conclusion of the 3-year subcontracting relationship with VeriSign. UIA commits to ensuring a highly competitive process for these back-end services at that time.
Not only does the UIA Team's technical solution assure of continued service levels for the TLD within the ICANN time frame, but also commits to raising the bar on TLD management through the planned deployment of the Advanced Transaction Look-up Architecture and Signaling (ATLAS) system, increasing the capacity for the nameservers that support the .org TLD (Sec. C17).
Beyond the well-established technical expertise of VGRS, UIA itself brings to bear a unique perspective as an extremely competent, technology-centric organization within the non-profit community. An "early adopter" of communication technology, UIA has pioneered civil society's adoption and utilization of information and communication technology.
Differentiating the .org TLD
The UIA proposal includes a comprehensive approach to attract non-commercial organizations to the .org TLD, to leverage their participation and effectiveness and enhance the identification of the civil society/non-profit community. Rather than marketing, we prefer to think of this as a collaborative approach in co-creation of .org. We are especially sensitive to the need for creative relationships with ccTLDs offering org subdomains and to the challenge of avoiding dysfunctional outreach initiatives that undermine the non-profit community both of .org and in the ccTLD subdomains.
The first element in this approach is differentiating the .org TLD from other TLD options; second is raising its profile and rendering it distinctive and identifiable; third is positioning .org as a "strategic space" for non-profits and the civil society community. This, in marketing parlance, requires a sound understanding of the buyer, what their decision-making processes are and the cues to which they will respond. UIA's work in profiling, analysing and studying the development of global civil society over many decades, notably its uptake of Internet communications services, gives it a special appreciation for the diversity, attitudes and needs of this community.
We strongly believe that a "marketing" strategy for civil society registrants should not be based on the assumption that those in the .org community agree with a set of principles selected by a particular coalition. Indeed, the significant differences we know exist between many within the community create the challenge to use information technology to assist in enhancing the sense of community within the community and, to a degree, healing schisms within that community.
Additionally, UIA has a thorough understanding of how the civil society community is currently utilising the various TLDs. Analyses made by UIA, show that major segments of the non-profit community use domains other than .org.
Because we believe in developing and implementing our approach participatively, we do not present a detailed "marketing" plan. This would be premature. To give a flavour of our current thinking, however, some elements of our "marketing" plan are likely to be:
The stability and existing strength of UIA's technical solution is critical to this strategy. The confidence that the technical backend is functioning smoothly will allow us to focus our immediate attention on the important process of information gathering and outreach. Furthermore, by using an existing backend infrastructure, UIA can confidently offer registry services at the highest QOS levels without putting the financial burden of establishing an infrastructure in the fees paid by the registrants. In fact, UIA has committed to providing a portion of the registry fee towards the goal of helping disadvantaged portions of the community in creating web presence and will also look at using surplus funds to reduce web fees, when and where this is appropriate.
The transition of the role of Registry Operator is the principle means of stimulating competition at the Registry level. UIA brings a completely new player into the TLD registry family. The UIA team maintains that if awarded the contract to become the Registry Operator for the .org TLD, that its selection by ICANN would prompt further innovation by other registry operators. The Registry Operator, not the backend technical provider, will drive innovation.
UIA will ensure that the .org community benefits from a competitive process in determining the best teaming arrangements in providing registry and non-registry services that assist not-for-profit organizations with enhancing their online presence and that help them establish greater credibility with members of the Internet community. Additionally, UIA provides a proven ability to solicit feedback and input from the civil society/non-profit community, which will be invaluable in cataloguing the most critical needs of the community, and communicating the availability of services to address these needs.
.org is not being built from scratch, and is so large and important that only large existing registry managers of high technical capability can be entrusted to maintain it. To increase competition over the life of this contract UIA proposes to open competition for a changeover in the provision of technical (backend) registry services at the end of 2005 and, other things being equal, will make a choice which increases the level of competition in this area and, ideally, would select a non-profit provider.
Commitment to Policy
Given its knowledge of the civil society sector, UIA is extremely well positioned to decide how to ensure broad input from the .org community into policy affairs. UIA also has the opportunity to use its current registry of 40,000 organizations to solicit views and better put into practice through its policies the requirements of this community vis-à-vis the .org domain and various tailored enhanced services. As a means of further ensuring representation and participation of the civil society/non-profit community in ICANN processes, UIA will pay up to $20,000 per year to cover the Non-commercial Domain Name Holders Constituency (NCDNHC) dues for the ICANN Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO). The intent of this offer is to facilitate participation by non-commercial organizations that have limited funds. Also, UIA will use its resources to assist the NCDNHC in expanding its membership by encouraging non-commercial .org domain name registrants to join the NCDNHC and by assisting in the validation of NCDNHC members as possible. If ICANN reform efforts result in an organizational change in which there is no longer a DNSO and/or NCDNHC, UIA would be willing to assist in similar ways to support the same objectives within the reorganised ICANN.
On specific matters, it is our view that the top priorities for Internet service provision for virtually all non-commercial sector registrants are a favourable price, convenient and sensitive retailing, and service security and reliability. We intend to keep policy-making concerned with these "essential service priorities" as simple and separated as much as possible from other more debatable policy issues that demand a higher degree of community input.
We have explored several possible operating structures and have not yet committed to any single one. We feel this requires more research and discussion than can be done in the time now available. UIA guarantees using a highly competent team to set up Diversitas as an independent non-profit organization with both a Board of Directors and Advisory Council composed of key people and organizations representing broad segments of the civil society. An expert Technical Advisory Council will also be formed.
The Unique Value UIA Provides
ICANN has articulated a comprehensive set of criteria for choosing the next Registry Operator. The UIA Team is fully prepared to meet those needs, specifically highlighting:
The unique qualities of the UIA Team provide not only the ability to execute on this approach, but by their knowledge and experience in these areas bring significant value propositions for all stakeholders in the .org TLD.
In conclusion, the UIA Team provides a solution to the operation of the .org TLD rich with technical expertise and real-world understanding of the community that ICANN aims to reach by focusing and differentiating the TLD. By ensuring that the necessary infrastructure continues to provide uninterrupted service for registrars, registrants, and Internet users alike, the expertise of UIA can more immediately be applied to the significant challenges that lay ahead in addressing the civil society/non-profit community. UIA looks forward to working with ICANN towards this goal, and bringing to bear its significant experience in cataloguing the community and its work to the betterment of the .org TLD as a resource to strengthen the community and help its individual members achieve their goals.