Reassignment of .org Top-Level Domain: Criteria for Assessing Proposals

Posted: 20 May 2002

This document is a finalized version of the [Draft] Criteria for Assessing Proposals posted on 1 May 2002. Please do not rely on the earlier document. See the end of this document for a summary of changes.

Please be sure to check this web page for updates immediately before you submit your application.

Reassignment of .org Top-Level Domain: Criteria for Assessing Proposals

On 31 December 2002, the current registry agreement for the operation of the .org top-level domain (TLD) expires. Accordingly, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is soliciting proposals from entities seeking to assume responsibility for operating the registry for the .org TLD beginning at the expiration.

Instructions for preparing and submitting proposals appear at <http://www.icann.org/tlds/org/app-instructions.htm>. It is very important that organizations seeking to become the successor operator for the .org TLD carefully follow those instructions.

This document discusses the criteria that ICANN intends to consider in evaluating and selecting from among the proposals that are received. The general criteria include those listed below. ICANN expects that additional considerations in the evaluation and selection of proposals may be suggested by analysis and comparison of the proposals received.

1. Need to preserve a stable, well-functioning .org registry.

ICANN's first priority is to preserve the stability of the Internet, including the domain-name system (DNS). Inasmuch as the .org TLD presently contains over 2,700,000 second-level domains, a principal consideration will be ICANN's level of confidence that a particular proposal will result in technically sound, high-quality services that meet the needs of .org registrants.

Proposals should include specific plans, backed by ample, firmly committed resources, as to how the proposed operator intends to operate the .org TLD in a stable and technically competent manner. (See also criterion 9 below, on transition plans.) In evaluating proposals, ICANN will place significant emphasis on the demonstrated ability of the applicant or a member of the proposing team to operate a TLD registry of significant scale in a manner that provides affordable services with a high degree of service responsiveness and reliability.

2. Ability to comply with ICANN-developed policies.

As a globally open TLD, the operation of the .org registry must comply with policies defined through ICANN processes, such as policies regarding registrar accreditation, shared registry access, the uniform dispute resolution policy, and access to registration contact data via Whois. Consideration will be given to the adequacy of mechanisms proposed for ensuring compliance with those policies.

3. Enhancement of competition for registration services.

One of ICANN's core principles is the encouragement of competition in the provision of registration services at both the registry and registrar levels. Promotion of that principle will be a criterion. As one illustration of this criterion, a major purpose of the reassignment of the .org registry is to diversify the provision of registry services by placing the .org registry under different operation than the .com and .net registries. Consideration will be given to the extent to which proposed arrangements are consistent with this purpose. As another illustration, applicants are encouraged to refrain from prohibiting non-affiliated providers of backend services from offering their services in connection with other applications.

4. Differentiation of the .org TLD.

A key objective is differentiation of the .org TLD from TLDs intended for commercial purposes. Appropriate marketing practices are a primary tool for achieving that objective. Proposals should include detailed planned marketing practices designed to differentiate the .org TLD, promote and attract registrations from the global noncommercial community, and minimize defensive and duplicative registrations.

5. Inclusion of mechanisms for promoting the registry's operation in a manner that is responsive to the needs, concerns, and views of the noncommercial Internet user community.

The successor operator's policies and practices should strive to be responsive to and supportive of the noncommercial Internet user community, and reflect as much of its diversity as possible. Consideration will be given to mechanisms proposed for achieving this responsiveness and supportiveness. A broad variety of mechanisms are possible, such as teaming between for-profit and non-profit organizations and establishment of governing or advisory groups for the operation of the .org registry that include representatives of the noncommercial Internet user community.

Where representative governing or advisory groups are proposed, the proposal should ensure a mechanism for providing all .org registrants with the opportunity to participate in that mechanism, either through the selection of members, or through some other means. The bylaws or other documents establishing the groups should provide explicitly for an open, transparent, and participatory process by which .org operating policies are initiated, reviewed, and revised in a manner that reflects the interests of .org domain name holders and is consistent with the terms of its registry agreement with ICANN.

6. Level of support for the proposal from .org registrants.

Demonstrated support among registrants in the .org TLD, particularly those actually using .org domain names for noncommercial purposes, will be a factor in evaluation of the proposals. Noncommercial registrants do not have uniform views about policy and management, and no single organization can fully encompass the diversity of global civil society. There will likely be significant difficulties in ascertaining the level of support for particular .org proposals from throughout the .org registrants and noncommercial community. Nevertheless, proposals to operate the .org TLD should provide available evidence of support from across the global Internet community.

7. The type, quality, and cost of the registry services proposed.

The specific registry services proposed should allow uninterrupted provision of all services presently provided to .org registrants. In addition, plans and provisions for additional registry services that will benefit .org registrants will be considered. Consideration will be given to proposed quality-of-service commitments. Any proposal should match or improve on the performance levels of the current .org registry.

In view of the noncommercial character of many present and future .org registrants, affordability is important. A significant consideration will be the price at which the proposal commits to provide initial and renewal registrations and other registry services. The registry fee charged to accredited registrars should be as low as feasible consistent with the maintenance of good-quality service.

The .org TLD will be operated with a shared registration system providing numerous (currently over one hundred) competitive registrars from around the world with equivalent access to registry services. Operation of a large TLD registry employing a shared registration system involves many aspects. In addition to the recording of registrations and provision of nameservice, necessary capabilities include Whois service, data escrow, certification of registrars for connection to the registry, processing of transfers between registrars, and technical and other support of registrars. Consideration will be given to the means proposed to supply all services required for operation of the .org TLD.

8. Ability and commitment to support, function in, and adapt protocol changes in the shared registry system.

The selected registry operator for .org will be required to provide registry services to ICANN-accredited registrars through a shared registry system, under which those registrars provide services (either directly or through resellers) to registrants. Consideration will be given to the proposed methods of providing registry services on an equivalent basis to all accredited registrars. Applicants should show a commitment to making registration, technical assistance, and other services available to ICANN-accredited registrars in different time zones and relevant languages.

The current .org registry uses a registry-registrar protocol documented in RFC 2832. Proposals should demonstrate the ability to support registrar communications under that protocol at the time of the successor registry operator's commencement of service. The applicant should also commit to adapting to meet changes to this protocol as adopted by the ICANN process.

In particular, the provreg working group of the Internet Engineering Task Force is currently working on specifications for a standard for registry-registrar communications, and it is expected that unsponsored TLD registry operators will comply with any standards that result. Consideration will be given to provisions for migration in a manner that minimizes burdens on registrars. (See also "Transition considerations", below.)

9. Transition considerations.

A smooth transition to a new operator of the .org TLD is essential. Proposals should include detailed plans (including plans for significant contingencies) for the transition. They should also commit to provide data to allow ICANN's evaluation of the .org transition process.

10. Ability to meet and commitment to comply with the qualification and use requirements of the VeriSign endowment and proposed use of the endowment.

To the extent that a proposal contemplates the availability of the VeriSign US$5 million endowment (see subsection 5.1.4 of the current .org Registry Agreement), the proposal should demonstrate that it meets the qualification and use requirements of that endowment. Proposals that employ the endowment should also include detailed commitments about the uses to which the endowment would be put, and consideration will be given to the extent to which those uses are consistent with the smooth, stable transition and operation of the .org TLD for the benefit of current and future .org registrants.

11. The completeness of the proposals submitted and the extent to which they demonstrate realistic plans and sound analysis.

ICANN intends to place significant emphasis on the completeness of the proposals and the extent to which they demonstrate that the applicant has a thorough understanding of what is involved, has carefully thought through all relevant issues, has realistically assessed all requirements for implementing the proposal, has procured firm commitments for all necessary resources, and has formulated sound plans for executing the proposal. Applicants are strongly encouraged to retain well-qualified professional assistance (e.g., technical, engineering, financial, legal, marketing, and management professionals, as appropriate) in formulating their proposals. Proposals that are presented in a clear, substantive, detailed, and specific manner will be preferred.

Prior draft:

1 May 2002

Summary of changes from prior draft:

  • The explanation of criterion 3 has been reworded. Promotion of competition is intended to be a general criterion, not limited to ICANN's goal of placing the .org registry under different operation than the .com and .net registries (though that goal is an appopriate illustration of the general criterion). A second illustration, concerning avoidance of applicants' exclusivity arrangements with back-end providers, has been added to the explanation.
  • The statement (in bold face) of criterion 5 has been reworded for clarity.
  • The explanation of crierion 10 has been reworded for clarity.

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