[GTLD-WG] [CPWG] Some thoughts on the .ORG and yesterday's call

John McCormac jmcc at hosterstats.com
Wed Dec 4 05:18:14 UTC 2019


On the call, the position of .ORG as the public interest gTLD was made 
clear. But its position as the gTLD of choice for non-profit 
organisations and other do-gooder organisations is a very fragile one 
when it comes to the position of its registrants.

I wrote a book on domain name statistics, gTLD geography and web usage. 
(Domnomics - the business of domain names). The first few chapters are 
free to read on the "Look Inside" link on the book's Amazon page. They 
cover the horror stories, with numbers, of how .EU was plundered and how 
Domain Tasting completely destabilised the gTLD market and led to the 
rise of the ccTLDs. In the chat on the call, I made the point about the 
danger of a Scorpion And The Frog situation arising. Both the .EU 
situation and the Domain Tasting situation arose because those tasked 
with creating the regulations did not appreciate the ruthlessness of the 
domain name industry when it comes to making money. Safeguards have to 
be in place for the registrants and community oversight may be problematic.

The shift from non-profit to for-profit seems to be the major problem 
but most registrants will be oblivious until the price increases follow. 
The worst case is that the whole thing gains media traction and causes 
registrants to consider rebranding from .ORG to their local ccTLDs. It 
might even give .US ccTLD a boost. The web usage surveys already show 
this kind of redirect happening in the gTLD. The .ORG isn't a single set 
of non-profit registrants. It has a strong brand protection element 
where businesses registered their .ORG at the same time they were 
registering their .COM and .NET domain names. It also has a speculative 
element.

The danger for .ORG is that its position as a special kind of gTLD is 
extremely fragile. The bulk of registrations in the gTLD are on US 
registrars. The market momentum has been shifting to ccTLDs over the 
past few years and non-profits that operate at a country level are now 
using local ccTLDs  rather than their .ORG. The decision by PIR to stop 
volume discounting in 2018 has improved the overall quality of the gTLD. 
The problem for .ORG is that the bad publicity will affect the 
registrations and renewals. The current renewal rates for .ORG are quite 
solid and stronger than .COM and the other major legacy gTLDs. It also 
has a lower percentage of reregistrations than the other legacy gTLDs. 
This means that when people register their .ORG, they keep renewing it.

Some of the registrants are in a golden handcuffs situation where they 
cannot afford to rebrand to another TLD. They have to keep paying the 
renewal fees even if they increase. The golden handcuff part of any TLD 
is, once a TLD matures, the most stable part of the registry's revenue 
because they, like the brand protection registrations, keep renewing. 
However, the taint of a deal done behind closed doors is going to cause 
problems for the .ORG and once that position of the gTLD being the 
"good" gTLD is gone, it won't return. The situation on the deal and the 
justifications for it need to be explained in simple terms so that the 
media doesn't get the idea that ISOC shafted the .ORG registrants.

The .ORG is similar to ccTLDs in that its registrants often seem to have 
a loyalty to the gTLD and consider it "their" TLD. There needs to be a 
greater explanation of the deal and the ISOC people involved need to 
explain why they accepted the Ethos deal. ICANN's removal of the price 
cap looks extraordinarily iffy even if there was nothing untoward about 
it. This really needs to be immediately addressed and simple denials 
will not be good enough. The .ORG registrants are not ISOC members and 
many don't even know that ISOC exists.

If this current lack of information and lack of transparency continues, 
the registrants will become aware and they will start reconsidering 
their .ORG registration. The problem is that those reconsiderations 
won't become immediately apparent as the registrants will begin to 
rebrand. The process might take four years or so but the worst case is 
that there will be a drift away from .ORG towards other TLDs such as 
ccTLDs. There will be an uptick in ccTLD redirects in the web usage 
surveys. At a country level, the .ORG is very much a third choice TLD 
after the local ccTLD and .COM. Once that loyalty of the registrants to 
"their" TLD is gone, it is very difficult for the registry to recover it.

Regards...jmcc
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