Stop calling .org non-profit!

Yes, it sucks that the registry behind the .org gTLD has been sold to a for-profit corporation. But this article, and many others like it, keep on propagating a really messy misconception which I feel has done active harm:

The decision shocked the internet industry, not least because the .org registry has always been operated on a non-profit basis and has actively marketed itself as such. The suffix “org” on an internet address – and there are over 10 million of them – has become synonymous with non-profit organizations.

The Register is at least being careful to be technically correct1 here, in that the registrar is non-profit and has “become synonymous” with non-profit organizations. But the .org gTLD was never intended to be for non-profit organizations. In the original RFC, the intention was that the gTLDs were:

  • .gov: for government institutions
  • .edu: for educational institutions
  • .com: for commercial enterprises
  • .mil: for military use
  • .org: for everything else; the “org” was short for “organizational” as in “we don’t know where else to put it for now”

This was also when .net was created (despite not being in the RFC), referring to network services and infrastructure providers.

But this has led to many bad misconceptions; for example, at the pain management workshop I did last year, they actively promoted the idea that .org sites are non-profit and therefore trustworthy when it comes to pain management information, while .biz sites are for-profit and advertising-based and therefore all scams2 and um…. well. As you might imagine I rather disagree with that characterization.

So for example this explanation of the gTLDs is woefully incorrect.

I have one .org domain which is certainly not a non-profit organization. In the past I’ve had a few others which were also just various blogs with punny names that I abandoned when I didn’t know what to do with them. They cost the same as my .com domains3, which were also handled by the same root registry until fairly recently.

Anyway. To all the tech reporters and bloggers and so on: please stop propagating this terrible misconception. .org was never a non-profit domain. Anyone can register one, and it’s completely unregulated – by design.

That said: the transfer of .org, a fundamental, foundational gTLD intended for common use by everyone, to a for-profit registrar which has no pricing cap is an abomination that should be stopped. I urge you to add your support to the campaign to save .org.

  1. The best kind of correct 

  2. Incidentally, while .biz’s charter used to require that it be for a commercial website, it was later expanded to include personal portfolios. Thank goodness for that! 

  3. Incidentally, not a commercial enterprise! 


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