Public Interest Registry

Public Interest Registry is a Reston, Virginia-based not-for-profit created by the Internet Society (ISOC) in 2002 to manage the .org top-level domain. It took over operation of .org in January 2003 and launched the .ngo and .ong domain names in March 2015.[1] The organization is involved in internet policy, education and security issues, like the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol, domain tasting, DNS filtering and internet adoption in developing countries.

Public Interest Registry
IndustryInternet, Domain registry
Founded2002 in Reston, Virginia
FounderLynn St.Amour, Hal Lubsen, Ram Mohan, David Maher
Key people
Jon Nevett, Judy Song-Marshall, Paul Diaz, Brian Cimbolic, Laurie Tarpey, Anand Vora, Mary Cornwell, Joe Abley
ParentInternet Society

In November 2019, it was announced the Public Interest Registry would be sold by the Internet Society to investment firm Ethos Capital for 1.135 billion USD[2]


The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) circulated a request for proposals in May 2002 for a new organization to manage the .org domain. The Internet Society (ISOC) teamed with Afilias[3] to put forth one of eleven proposals ICANN received.[4][5] ISOC won an endorsement within ICANN and was recommended to the selection committee in a preliminary report.[6] At a public ICANN meeting in Bucharest in 2002, ISOC CEO Lynn St. Amour and Afilias CTO Ram Mohan presented ISOC's proposal to manage the .org registry.[7][8] The proposal included the creation of a separate entity, called the Public Interest Registry, to oversee the .org domain. Its board of directors is appointed by ISOC. Afilias was selected as the back-end technical provider for .org under contract with Public Interest Registry.[9][10] The then-largest domain transfer in history[11] occurred on January 1, 2003, when ICANN had VeriSign delegate 2.6 million domains to Public Interest Registry.[12] An Internet Society Vice President, David Maher, became the chairman.[10] The following month, Ed Viltz became the organization's first CEO.[13]

On June 23, 2010, Public Interest Registry's technology provider Afilias implemented[14] the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol for .org, making .org the first open gTLD to sign its zone.[15] DNSSEC is intended to prevent cache poisoning attacks by making sure internet users arrive at the URL they intended.[16][17] The implementation began in test environments in mid-2009.[18] The protocol was [16] implemented by Public Interest Registry's technical partner Afilias[19] during the tenure of former CEO, Alexa Raad, who played a role in creating the DNSSEC Industry Coalition. Raad resigned from Public Interest Registry in late 2010.[20] The non-profit had an interim CEO, until it recruited former Afilias executive Brian Cute as its third chief executive officer on January 14, 2011.[21] After a successful tenure, Brian Cute stepped down as CEO in May 2018.[22]

After the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Public Interest Registry waived renewal fees for Japan-based .org domains to prevent them from expiring due to intermittent internet access.[23]

In 2017, PIR renegotiated their agreement with Afilias to manage their registrations, reducing their overhead.

On December 17, 2018, Jon Nevett became CEO of the Public Interest Registry.[24]

On May 13, 2019, ICANN announced that they would remove the price cap on .org registrations.


On November 13, 2019 it was announced that PIR would be acquired by Ethos Capital and would become for-profit. The transaction is expected to close in early 2020.[25]

The transaction parties launched an informational website,[26] on which Ethos made commitments that include 1) establishing a 'Stewardship Council', 2) launching a 'Community Enablement Fund', 3) expanding a .ORG Prize program.

Ethos wrote that they were evaluating B Corp certification for PIR as it transitions to being a for-profit. They also wrote "Our plan is to live within the spirit of historic practice when it comes to pricing,"[27] which they later clarified to mean raising prices an average of 10% per year. This is the maximum that PIR was allowed to raise prices starting in 2016, though it never chose to.

The sale led to a public outcry over PIR's transition to a for profit venture, especially in view of the removal of price caps on .org registrations.[28][29][30] People who came out in opposition to the sale included Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Rotenberg,[31] an early chair of PIR.

On November 22 2019 NTEN launched a website for organizations and others to express their opposition to the sale.[32]

On November 29 2019, it was revealed that the purchase price is $1.135 billion. [33]



.org is the third largest generic top-level domain of the Domain Name System used in the internet. .org domains have been registered by Public Interest Registry since 2003. and are among the more popular .org users.[34] Since 2009, Public Interest Registry has published a bi-annual report called "The Dashboard"[35] on the number of registered org domains. There were more than 8 million registered .orgs in 2009,[34] 8.8 million in 2010,[36] and 9.6 million in 2011.[37] Public Interest Registry registered the ten millionth .org domain in June, 2012.[38] In June 2015 there were 10.5 million .org domains registered.[39]

Public Interest Registry promotes and publicizes the .org domain. While .org is an open domain, Public Interest Registry wants more people to view .org as a domain for communities and entities that serve the public good, rather than being perceived as directed to non-profits.[40] In 2010, Public Interest Registry launched "" as part of campaign to promote the .org domain extension.[41]

It conducted a survey of consumers in 2011 on how domain names are perceived by internet users. The survey found that 81 percent of Americans still rely on an organization's website before Twitter or Facebook. It also suggested .org sites were seen as more trustworthy.[11] Respondents were more likely to turn to .org websites in a crisis, more likely to post content on .org sites and to trust information on a .org domain. It also found that younger age groups were almost twice as likely to register a .org as Americans age 55-64.[42]

In July 2015, Public Interest Registry marked the 30th anniversary of the first .org registration, and launched a website featuring a timeline of .org registrations from 1985 to 2015 and a gallery of .org websites.[43] The first .org domain name to be registered was[44]


In June 2011, ICANN expanded the internet's naming system to allow applications for new top-level domain names.[45] Public Interest Registry declared publicly an interest in the .ngo domain in August 2011[46] and applied for it in May 2012.[47] It also applied for an equivalent domain, .ong, which stands for "Organisation Non Gouvernementale" in French, and is also recognizable in Spanish, Italian and other Romance languages.[48][49] Unlike the .org domain, .ngo will require validation of the registrant's non-governmental status.[45] Non-governmental organizations told Public Interest Registry they needed a closed domain[50] that validated the legitimacy of websites accepting online donations to avoid fraud.[50][51] Public Interest Registry plans to use the funds from selling .ngo domains[52] to develop an "NGO Community Program" to reach out to NGOs in developing nations.[45] It also intends to create a directory service of NGOs to support their SEO and visibility, and develop a closed community for NGOs to learn from each other.[52] The new domains have been publicly available since May 6, 2015.


Public Interest Registry often supports ICANN on policy and privacy issues on the internet. In 2003, Public Interest Registry wrote a letter to ICANN supporting its opposition of wildcard redirection services that automatically redirect internet users to correct spelling errors and typos. The letter supported ICANN's request for VeriSign to voluntarily suspend a DNS wildcard service called Site Finder and asked ICANN to make a policy against similar services across the internet.[53] Public Interest Registry and other organizations opposed the move by VeriSign, because automatic redirects may affect spam filters and mail servers that rely on error messages from non-existent domains.[54]

Public Interest Registry reduced domain tasting by charging fees to registrars that cancel 90 percent of their domains in less than five days. In 2007, ICANN used that as a model for a similar proposal to curb domain tasting through non-refundable fees.[55] Public Interest Registry supported ICANN's expansion of top-level domain names. The CEO, Brian Cute, commented that internet users will still gravitate towards established domain names, but new domains will target specific communities.[56] Public Interest Registry has also urged ICANN to address privacy implications of the WHOIS database.[57][58] The organization is critical of the security of DNS filtering techniques[11] and supports the DNSSEC protocol.[41] It also shuts down .org-based phishing scams.[11]


  1. "TLD Startup Information". ICANN. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  2. "The Internet Society & Public Interest Registry: A New Era of Opportunity (PIR's press release)". .ORG. 2019-11-13. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  3. "Preliminary Report to ICANN Board: ISOC to Run .org?". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  4. "Special Meeting of the Board Preliminary Report". ICANN. October 14, 2002. Retrieved August 7, 2012.
  5. Jackson, William (January 2, 2003). "New organization takes over .ORG domain registry". Government Computer News.
  6. McGuire, David (September 13, 2002). "Dot-org Selection Process Criticized". The Washington Post.
  7. ICANN, Public Forum (June 26, 2002). ".org Reassignment: Public Forum Transcript". ICANN. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  8. ICANN, Public Forum (June 26, 2002). ".org Reassignment: Bidder's Presentations". ICANN. Retrieved November 30, 2012.
  9. McGuire, David (July 29, 2002). "The internet Society". The Washington Post.
  10. Cooper, Porus (October 18, 2002). "They'll be registering .ORG names in Horsham". The Philadelphia Inquirer. pp. Business, Page C01.
  11. Flook, Bill (March 18, 2011). "Public Interest Registry takes extra steps to secure its .ORG enterprise". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  12. "The History of .ORG". Public Interest Registry. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  13. Wybenga, Eric (2012). A Quarter Century in the Life of a Domain (PDF) (First ed.). Reston, Virginia: Public Interest Registry.
  14. "Afilias' Technology Successfully Signs .ORG Zone with DNSSEC". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  15. Mohan, Ram (June 23, 2010). "DNSSEC Becomes a Reality Today at ICANN Brussels". SecurityWeek. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  16. Diaz, Paul (December 8, 2011). "Online Property Protections and the Public Interest". CircleID. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  17. Ragan, Steve (March 12, 2010). "DNSSEC to become standard on .ORG domains by end of June". The Tech Herald. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  18. Jackson, William (July 23, 2009). "Public Interest Registry beings moving DNSSEC into live domains". Government Computer News. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  19. Hamilton, David (June 2, 2009). "Afilias Secures .org TLD with DNSSEC". The Web Host Industry Review. Retrieved September 4, 2013.
  20. Kerner, Sean (August 26, 2010). ".ORG loses CEO". Internetnews. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  21. "Washington area appointments…". The Washington Post. January 31, 2011. pp. Page A12.
  22. "Brian Cute Resigns as President and CEO of Public Interest Registry". Retrieved 2018-09-15.
  23. Sniderman, Zachary (April 11, 2011). "Japanese .ORG Websites Get Renewal Fees Waived After Disaster". Mashable. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  24. "PIR Names Jon Nevett as new CEO". Domain Industry & Internet News. 2018-12-05. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  25. "Ethos Capital to Acquire Public Interest Registry from the Internet Society". Internet Society. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  26. "". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  27. "Information Regarding Ethos Capital's Agreement to Acquire Public Interest Registry from the Internet Society". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  28. Harmon, Elliot (2019-11-22). "Nonprofit Community Stands Together to Protect .ORG". Electronic Frontier Foundation. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  29. Peters, Jay (2019-11-13). "The org that doles out .org websites just sold itself to a for-profit company". The Verge. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  30. "Breaking: Private Equity company acquires .Org registry". Domain Name Wire. 2019-11-13. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  31. Center, Electronic Privacy Information. "EPIC - .ORG Sold to Private Equity Firm, Transparency Diminished". Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  32. "About". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  33. Sullivan, Andrew. "Advancing the Internet Society's Mission Into the Future". Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  34. Ragan, Steve (March 12, 2010). "DNSSEC to become standard on .ORG domains by end of June". The Tech Herald. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  35. Wauters, Robin (August 17, 2010). "Are Now 8.5 Million .ORG Domains, and Growth is Accelerating". TechCrunch. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  36. Berkens, Michael (February 14, 2011). ".ORG Grows Over 10% To Over 8.8 Million Registrations". The Domains. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  37. Prestipino, Peter (February 16, 2012). "The .ORG Registry Grows 10 Percent". Website Magazine. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  38. Goldstein, David (July 12, 2012). "ORG Seventh TLD To Pass Ten Millionth Registration Milestone". DomainPulse.
  39. "The .ORG Dashboard". Public Interest Registry. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  40. "Alexa Read". Executive Leaders Radio. December 17, 2009. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  41. Maul, Kimberly (July 8, 2010). ".ORG launches education campaigns around domain names". PRWeek. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  42. "IN .ORG WE TRUST: Survey Reveals Americans Turn To The .ORG Domain In Times of Crisis and Calm" (Press release). Public Interest Registry. September 15, 2011. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  43. "Happy 30th .org". Public Interest Registry. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  44. Gautam, Roy (2009). ICSE Computer Applications. Allied Publishers. p. 100. ISBN 81-7764-996-5. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  45. Kanani, Rahim (July 10, 2012). "NGO Domain Name in the Works for Global Nonprofit Community". Forbes. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  46. Sniderman, Zachary (August 2, 2011). "With New Domain Names on Market, .ORG Guns for .NGO". Mashable. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  47. Cute, Brian (May 31, 2012). "Ushering in the Dot-NGO Boom: Protecting the Online Interests of Non-Governmental Organizations". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  48. Gruenwald, Juliana (May 31, 2012). ".BANK, .GLOBAL Could be Coming to Your Browser". National Journal. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  49. "New .NGO and .ONG Web Domains Proposed for Nonprofits". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. May 31, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  50. Thi Pham, Lieu (April 11, 2012). "Charities hope .NGO domain will end scams". ZDNet. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  51. Flook, Bill (October 7, 2011). "Masters of your domain: Web address stampede could benefit D.C. tech firms". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  52. Petronzio, Matt (May 31, 2012). "Internet Non-Profit Applies for New Domains: Meet .ngo and .ong [EXCLUSIVE]". Mashable. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  53. Mehus, Doug (September 23, 2003). "PIR Opposes SiteFinder; Will Not Implement Similar Service for .ORG". CircleID. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  54. Lemos, Robert (October 3, 2003). "VeriSign calls halt to .com detours". CNET. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  55. Loerger, Roderick (January 30, 2008). "ICANN's Recent Proposal to Curb Domain Tasting". WebProNews. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  56. "Next Big Thing in Tech: How Will the New Domain Names Change the Internet". Wall Street Journal. April 26, 2012. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  57. "Government Hearing Reinforces Push for US Control of Internet". COMMWEB. July 26, 2006.
  58. Claburn, Thomas (July 26, 2006). "Government Hearing Reinforces Push For U.S. Control Of Internet". InformationWeek. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
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