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. 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.
|Industry||Internet, Domain registry|
|Founded||2002 in Reston, Virginia|
|Founder||Lynn St.Amour, Hal Lubsen, Ram Mohan, David Maher|
|Jon Nevett, Judy Song-Marshall, Paul Diaz, Brian Cimbolic, Laurie Tarpey, Anand Vora, Mary Cornwell, Joe Abley|
|Parent||Internet 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
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 to put forth one of eleven proposals ICANN received. ISOC won an endorsement within ICANN and was recommended to the selection committee in a preliminary report. 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. 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. The then-largest domain transfer in history occurred on January 1, 2003, when ICANN had VeriSign delegate 2.6 million domains to Public Interest Registry. An Internet Society Vice President, David Maher, became the chairman. The following month, Ed Viltz became the organization's first CEO.
On June 23, 2010, Public Interest Registry's technology provider Afilias implemented the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol for .org, making .org the first open gTLD to sign its zone. DNSSEC is intended to prevent cache poisoning attacks by making sure internet users arrive at the URL they intended. The implementation began in test environments in mid-2009. The protocol was implemented by Public Interest Registry's technical partner Afilias 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. 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. After a successful tenure, Brian Cute stepped down as CEO in May 2018.
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.
In 2017, PIR renegotiated their agreement with Afilias to manage their registrations, reducing their overhead.
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.
The transaction parties launched an informational website, 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," 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. People who came out in opposition to the sale included Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Rotenberg, an early chair of PIR.
.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. Craigslist.org and Wikipedia.org are among the more popular .org users. Since 2009, Public Interest Registry has published a bi-annual report called "The Dashboard" on the number of registered org domains. There were more than 8 million registered .orgs in 2009, 8.8 million in 2010, and 9.6 million in 2011. Public Interest Registry registered the ten millionth .org domain in June, 2012. In June 2015 there were 10.5 million .org domains registered.
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. In 2010, Public Interest Registry launched "WhyIChose.org" as part of campaign to promote the .org domain extension.
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. 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.
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. The first .org domain name to be registered was mitre.org.
In June 2011, ICANN expanded the internet's naming system to allow applications for new top-level domain names. Public Interest Registry declared publicly an interest in the .ngo domain in August 2011 and applied for it in May 2012. 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. Unlike the .org domain, .ngo will require validation of the registrant's non-governmental status. Non-governmental organizations told Public Interest Registry they needed a closed domain that validated the legitimacy of websites accepting online donations to avoid fraud. Public Interest Registry plans to use the funds from selling .ngo domains to develop an "NGO Community Program" to reach out to NGOs in developing nations. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Public Interest Registry has also urged ICANN to address privacy implications of the WHOIS database. The organization is critical of the security of DNS filtering techniques and supports the DNSSEC protocol. It also shuts down .org-based phishing scams.
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