The Public Interest Registry (PIR), the non-profit that manages and operates the .org domain, has formally submitted its applications to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the .ngo and .ong domain extensions.
The application process is part of ICANN's initiative to expand domain extensions across the Internet as early as 2013.
The .org top-level domain (TLD) is the world's third largest behind .com and .net with more than 9.9 million web addresses registered worldwide. Since its inception in 2002, PIR has managed the .org domain while serving the interests of non-profits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
By applying for the .ngo and .ong extensions, PIR can continue to work with the global NGO community and expand its service. (The .ong extension is the .ngo equivalent for Spanish, Italian, French and other Romance languages.)
When PIR brainstormed on what the extension should be, .ngo resonated with the team, according to CEO Brian Cute.
"NGO itself, as an acronym, is a very well-known term," Cute told Mashable. "It's a very strong self-identification, those three letters, which is very important on the Internet when you want to be found."
Although the .org extension is often associated with non-profits and has been their go-to domain extension, it is an open domain, meaning that individuals and for-profit corporations can register under it as well. But .ngo will be administered as a closed domain exclusively for NGOs, and there will be a verification component at the time of registration.
If the .ngo extension is approved, non-profits and NGOs that currently have a .org extension won't be required to make the transition.
"It's really their choice," Cute said. "If they have a .org site and they're interacting robustly with their donors and their community, they may not want to. That's fine. If they aren't online yet, or they recognize that the benefit of a verified registration and website and .ngo gives them better positioning with their stakeholders, then it's the right move."
Cute also said that making the transition to .ngo is something PIR can facilitate fairly easily.
There are more benefits to the .ngo extension as well. PIR will offer an online directory service of NGOs registered with the extension to increase visibility, searchability and the ability to share information in a closed group setting.
Additionally, PIR is planning for an NGO community program, investing in the community as part of the .NGO effort. This means that PIR will reinvest the money it receives from .ngo and .ong registrations into the non-profit sphere.
PIR will help grassroots NGOs in the developing world get online and set up a website through a cost-effective web service.
"We [want to help] get them online, but also train them to use WordPress, and empower them to control their online presence and their website," Cute said. "For us, that's the impact part of it that we see as being really compelling. It's not just the web address and getting the website. This really holds potential for lifting that community in important ways."
According to Cute, PIR probably will not know for certain if its applications are approved until January 2013, since the ICANN evaluation process can take some time.
On June 13, ICANN will reveal the 2,100 domain extensions that were submitted by the May 30 deadline. It will be interesting to see the submissions, which may include extensions such as .sport and .music.