The expansion of the internet with the introduction of hundreds of new domain name suffixes is opening new opportunities for charities. Mathew Healey looks at how charities can harness the power of the new domains.

We are all familiar with the suffixes such as .com, .org, and .net, appearing in website and email addresses. But with the ever-increasing importance of the internet, the number of available domain names using these suffixes (known as generic top level domains, or gTLDs) is shrinking fast.

In response, ICANN (the organisation with overall responsibility for the Domain Name System of the internet) launched an expansion programme in 2012, allowing applications for a whole set of new gTLDs. As of the time of writing, more than 1200 new gTLDs have been approved, and many more are in the pipeline.

How is this relevant to charities? .org and have long been favourite gTLDs for charities, but there are now a number of suitable alternatives: these include .ngo, .fund, .foundation, and .green.

Introduced in early 2016 but rapidly gaining traction, .ngo is intended for non-governmental organisations and is managed by the Public Interest Registry, which also manages .org. Domain names under this gTLD are sold as a package with .ngo and are restricted to validated NGOs, i.e. NGOs that meet the specific eligibility requirements set down by the Public Interest Registry, such as being focused on acting in the public interest, having a nonprofit focus, and being non-political. Most registered charities in the UK are likely to fit within this criteria. Unlike .org or .com domain names, the underlying eligibility requirements for .ngo mean that using it is likely to lend credibility to an organisation using this gTLD.

The application for the gTLD .charity is still pending, and has been for some time (watch this space!), but .fund and .foundation are available, and .green has connotations of supporting green environmental initiatives.

With new gTLDs being approved daily, charities are being presented with a number of new options:

  • There is only a finite number of domain names with the old gTLDs, and it is possible that your preferred name has already been taken: the creation of new gTLDs opens up a whole new set of choices.
  • If a charity already has an established domain name using .com or .org, it is worth considering whether the same domain name using a new gTLD can provide additional credibility, connotations and visibility on the internet. It is not necessary to have separate website content for the new gTLD – the same website could be connected to both, alternatively a pointer could be used to the existing .com or .org domain name.
  • Alternatively a new gTLD could be used as a microsite for a particular project or campaign with a specific focus.
  • In some cases it may be helpful to register a new gTLD domain simply in order to prevent others from doing the same. It is also worth noting that there are procedures which apply where a third party registers a domain name containing a trade mark owned by a charity, which can allow the charity to take over the domain name. A good safeguard is to register the charity’s trade mark with the Trademark Clearinghouse, which provides a notification service of any similar new domain name registrations under a new gTLD.

The availability of domain names with the new gTLDs provide a good opportunity for charities to increase their credibility, brand message and online visibility. For a relatively low cost of registration, these new domain names can be valuable assets.

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Mathew Healey

Head of Trade Marks

+44(0)20 7551 7637

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Posted on 02/02/2017 in Legal Updates

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