Nonprofits have a new opportunity to own a piece of the Internet.
Starting Tuesday, charities around the world are eligible to register for website addresses with the domains dot-ngo and dot-ong.
The new domains, which will be granted only to active, independent, nonpolitical nonprofits that meet eligibility requirements are intended to lend credibility to legitimate charities vying for attention and donations online, according to Public Interest Registry, the nonprofit organization in charge of managing the domains.
The eligibility standards and vetting process are designed to help donors know that the groups have met basic standards and are worthy of a donation, said Brian Cute, CEO of Public Interest Registry.
Organizations that purchase the domains also can create profile pages on Public Interest Registry’s new online nonprofit directory, OnGood, and solicit donations using a payment system called Ammado.
Public Interest Registry, which also manages the already popular dot-org domain, spent three years soliciting feedback and conducting workshops in 30 countries to learn what domain features would most benefit nonprofits.
"The feedback from the community has been very consistent: They want to be trusted online, and they want to connect with donors," said Mr. Cute.
Payments in 80 Currencies
Mr. Cute hopes the new domains and directory will help nonprofits find and build connections with donors and other organizations around the world: The OnGood directory is written in English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish and accepts donations in 80 currencies and through 20 payment methods.
The domain acronyms are meant to use phrases people around the world use to refer to nonprofits. NGO, which stands for nongovernmental organization, is an abbreviation already well known to many Americans, while ONG is commonly used in France, Italy and other countries that speak romance languages. Successful applicants automatically get both domains.
Offering an online presence to small organizations in countries that have few nonprofits to serve the needy, especially in the developing world, was one of Public Interest Registry’s goals, Mr. Cute said, and he envisions donors using OnGood to search for credible local nonprofits that need donations during disasters.
"That impulsive desire to give is going to be facilitated," he said.
Global competition for the new domains has already begun. For example, Jonathan Meyers, senior director of digital strategy at the Wilderness Society, says he plans to apply for new web addresses that use the domains to claim them before they are snatched up by an Australian organization that goes by the same name.
"All our work is 100 percent in the United States, but if an international donor would want to fund us, we’re not going to say no," Mr. Meyers said.
But the Public Interest Registry did take steps to ensure the competition doesn’t hurt groups that have already trademarked their names. Groups that have registered their names with the Trademark Clearinghouse, the database created by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to protect intellectual property online, have until April 20 to register domain names that match their trademarks.
Debating the Change
Organizations must purchase the domains and accompanying services, like the directory, through one of dozens of accredited registrars, which set their own prices. Mr. Cute estimates many will offer the domains for $44 to $50 a year, $30 of which will go back to Public Interest Registry. Starting in mid-April, Public Interest Registry will open its own registrar, Enset, which will sell the domains and services and will make a special effort to reach groups in the developing world.
While organizations that already pay for dot-org sites may wonder whether it’s worth the money and effort to register for the new domains, Mr. Cute believes the accreditation process serves as "a unique and compelling benefit."
But Mr. Meyers said it’s unlikely the Wilderness Society would make a new website if it succeeds in getting new domains, since its marketing materials already promote wilderness.org.
"We’ll probably squat on dot-ngo and redirect to our dot-org site," he said. "I’m not anticipating any traffic from that domain for a very long time."