As we prepare for the release of 1,400 new domain extensions such as .book, .music to .sport, the Public Internet Registry (PIR) is also focusing on specific domains for the charity and non-profit sector that will see a whole new type of classification online with the domain extensions .ngo and .ong (which has its roots in Latin languages).
As the internet diversifies, the need for a new domain system is becoming more and more evident. We've seen slight shifts with the introduction of country specific extensions, but we are about to see the biggest overhaul of the domain name system in the history of the internet. The new system began rolling out on April 23 this year and by the end there will be a 6,300% increase in web domain names.
What are the implications of a whole new domain extension system and what does it mean for how we use the internet to search and find trusted information? I spoke to the CEO of PIR, Brian Cute, about this topic. PIR, who operate the .org domain name, is currently accepting requests for registration of .ngo and .ong domain extensions and Brian had some interesting perspectives on what the new domain system represents in the wider context of online communication.
As information online increases, there is a growing demand for a verification system to notify us of sites that we can trust. This is especially needed in the charity sector, where many smaller organisations rely on online donations, but how do we know who we can trust? A recent survey conducted on behalf of PIR found that two thirds of respondents would be more likely to donate to a charitable website with a validated domain name.
In addition. 80% of respondents felt that .ngo or .ong would be an acceptable domain for the community. For this to prove successful, it needs to be monitored by a third party who can manually approve requests. Just as Twitter relies on human authentication to grant profiles 'verified' status, we are about to enter a new phase that will see a similar process in action across the internet, one that will be tailored specifically for NGOs.
As Brian explained, where an organisation doesn't already have NGO status, PIR will enter into a manual verification process to decide if the domain should be awarded. The impact this has on our online behaviour is significant. With 1,400 new categories launching, we will approach websites differently and will have to develop an understanding of how the categories function (to an extent) to get the information we want.
We will need to judge the difference between domains like .co.uk or .london to decide which is the right one for us. Brian asserted that even though organisations have a diversified presence online - which can include social profiles and apps as well as a website - it is still the website that people ultimately trust. He explained that:
"...the humble website remains one of the best ways to completely control the environment around your brand and we think they will remain a primary home on the web for years to come."
The Role Of Search
This will have a huge knock-on effect for search engines, which will need to develop a new system of categorising websites. Right now, we've a relatively simple system where just a few domain variations need to be categorised.
We risk seeing multiple results for a product name that could have multiple domain name variants. with a need to support category domains to filter information, how we search in the future will be drastically different to how we search now.
This could even mean domain specific search engines if you only want to search within .sport for example. Suddenly, we have semantic search made possible by the domain name itself. Speaking about the impact on search, Brian said:
"This is yet another indicator of how drastic these changes will be and why organizations and the Internet community must begin to prepare now."
Below is the interview in full with Brian Cute.
Lauren Fisher (LF): Right now domain names are fairly standardised, and so are easy for people to remember and use. Do you think the release of up to 1,400 additional domain names could over-complicate this?
Brian Cute (BC): At first, all these new names may be confusing to most consumers. While .co.uk, .com and .org are the norm today, they will be joined by new web addresses such as .book or .music, and .eco or .sport.
However, as you breakdown the categories of the new domain extensions, you’ll find that more than half of them belong to trademarked holders while the rest are spread into categories including generic names, geographic locations and community-centric domains. Most consumers will gravitate to certain categories, and we think there is great potential in the domains that offer community identification and bring groups together under a shared passion or interest.
LF: Do you believe the domain name is still important, with the move to mobile and a heavier reliance on apps?
BC: The increase in domain names combined with the growth of social media platforms and apps does make for a cluttered content landscape. Yet the humble website remains one of the best ways to completely control the environment around your brand and we think they will remain a primary home on the web for years to come.
A recent survey conducted by the Public Interest Registry confirmed that 82% of people still think an organization’s website is the most trustworthy place to get information on a charity or social cause compared to other online resources such as social media sites. While not every new web address will have staying power, we think a community-centric and verified domain will be a strong draw for people.
LF:What are the criteria for an .ngo/ong domain to be granted?
BC: Knowing there is some diversity across the NGO community, the Public Interest Registry has identified six global commonalities to help determine who qualifies for the .ngo/ong domain which will encompass both traditional NGOs and also nonprofits.
We spent three years travelling the globe to speak with non-profits and NGOs to understand their challenges and opportunities. With the new domain, our goal is to create a unique space for the broader NGO community, and also to empower them with new tools such as a global NGO directory to make them more easily found by prospective donors around the world. The six criteria to qualify for an .ngo/ong domain are:
1. Not-for-profit: Non-commercial focus, members not exclusively benefiting.
2. Purposeful: Actively pursuing its mission.
3. Benevolent: Broad-based focus on the good of humankind, not political.
4. Independence: Have degrees of influence to operate - participation is voluntary.
5. Structured/Organized: Function in a defined manner.
6. Lawful: Operates with integrity in the bounds of the law.
Validation will be automated or manual as needed. The automated verification will happen instantly if those organizations have already been identified as NGOs, based on existing valid databases and lists.
If an NGO isn’t on an existing and credible list, we also have a manual validation process whereby organizations can submit required documents for review. Qualifying organizations will be eligible to receive both the .ngo and the .ong extensions (a linguistic variation of the NGO term in Latin-rooted languages).
LF: How will these new domain names impact search?
BC: Just as users and website owners will adapt to new domains, so must search engines. The changes may result in a single organization operating on multiple domain names – either pointing visitors to one flagship site or taking advantage of different domains to specific target audiences and purposes.
This is yet another indicator of how drastic these changes will be and why organizations and the Internet community must begin to prepare now.
LF: Could you expand on the recent survey carried out, where two thirds of respondents claimed they would be more likely to donate to a site with a validated domain name?
BC: The survey, regarding domain names for social causes and non-profits, queried 200 marketing and technology professionals in the UK and was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Public Interest Registry. Respondents included 150 nonprofit leaders and 50 business leaders.
In addition to discovering that a majority of respondents are more likely to donate to a validated domain name, the survey also found that 80% felt that .ngo/ong would be a welcome domain and serve a recognized community.
LF: Do we have a need for these new domain names because the original system is only sustainable to a point, or because our behaviour is changing?
BC: The Internet’s addressing system has undergone several expansions in the past 27 years. Over this span of time, we have added country codes, such as .uk, .de, .fr, and a host of other generic terms. Of course, there has never been an expansion quite like this, in terms of scale and size.
However, it is an evolving landscape both to increase consumer choice and to encourage technology innovation. Consumer consumption is helping drive the appetite for a new domain ecosystem, which we see as very positive.
LF: How big is the market for .ngo domains?
BC: Public Interest Registry spent the last two years meeting with NGOs around the globe to better understand the market and the needs of NGOs. Under our definition of NGO – which includes all valid non-profits – we believe there is upward of ten million organizations that can join the new domain and help build a robust NGO community and online directory.