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New Public Interest Registry CEO Jon Nevett Seeks to Position .ORG as the Best TLD, Period

When I entered the domain business in 2002 - back when there were just a handful of extensions to choose from - there was an ongoing debate in the forums of the day about what was the best alternative to .com - .net or .org? Of course, the keyword has a major bearing on which would be the better choice, but all things being equal my preference was .org. I liked that .org had a clearly defined and positive identity of its own and a very high level of trust because of the kinds of registrants that used it most - non-profits, organizations and 

enterprises that had an altruistic orientation (in fields like education, health care or advocating for a cause, to  name just a few of the many examples).

There was also ample evidence of interest in high quality .org domains in the aftermarket with prices that often ran into five figures and could go even higher. That has held true through the years. In 2018, Q.org sold for $500,000, Star.org for $225,000, AAH.org for $63,700 and Center.org for $45,000. The 2019 sales season has just started but we've already seen Email.org change hands for $25,000. Those kinds of sales show how valuable well chosen .org domains can be beyond the every day price of a registration.

That being the case, I've always paid attention to developments at Public Interest Registry (the non-profit behind .org) and a particularly big one just happened in December when PIR named a new CEO - well-known and widely respected domain industry veteran Jon Nevett. Jon is a co-founder of Donuts, the world's biggest operator of new gTLD registries with more than 200 extensions in its portfolio and he also served as the company's Executive Vice President for 8 years. Prior to launching Donuts in 2010, Jon spent more than five years as Senior Vice President at Network Solutions, the very first domain name registrar.

Now that Nevett is bringing his storehouse of knowledge to PIR and .org I took the opportunity to connect with him at the 2019 NamesCon Global conference in Las Vegas to see what attracted him to PIR and .org and what he has planned as the organization's new leader.

Jon Nevett
CEO, Public Interest Registry 

"Just like you, I've admired .org and Public Interest Registry since I started in the industry," Nevett said. When this job came open, to me, it was my dream job."

Running a registry is a multi-faceted assignment requiring oversight of sales, marketing and technology among the many responsibilities. Jon had only been on the job for a month when I sat down with him but he already had a couple of major initiatives underway. One he is particularly excited about is a re-branding plan for .org. It is too early for him to let that cat fully out of the bag,  but expect to see it rolled out in the first half of this year. Jon hinted, "I think .org is our crown jewel and our efforts are going to go toward polishing it and making it even better. We are also looking at a Quality Index (for TLDs) - looking at improving the quality of domain names across the eco system and rewarding registrars that discourage abuse.  We're already among the highest in that respect and we want to be even higher."  

Jon Nevett (at far right) with his fellow Donuts Co-Founders (left to right): Paul Stahura, Dan Schindler, Richard Tindal and Nevett.

I mentioned the long running debate about which TLD was the best alternative to .com, but Nevett believes that, then and now, that isn't even the right question - that it should be "what is the best TLD, period?"  Nevett said, ".com, .net and .org are the big three among the original TLDs, but .org has the most semantic meaning. To me it is the best TLD out there because if you want to do good on the Internet you buy and use a .org."  Jon also pointed out something that many, even within industry, may not be aware of. "If you register a .org more than 50% of the purchase price goes to the Internet Society - and they do great work with it - providing access to the Internet in Africa and other areas, educational opportunities and a whole host of other initiatives." 

That is what sets PIR apart from other registry operators who must view the bottom line as their top priority. Nevett said, "If Coca-Cola, for example, provided half of their revenue to the Internet Society, they still wouldn't become a non-profit. We are a non-profit and have our own non-profit mission. We are going to fine tune and increase our education and outreach efforts and I am really excited about that opportunity as well."

Jon Nevett, during his time as Senior VP 
at Network Solutions, speaking at the 
2009 Domain Roundtable Conference
in Washington, D.C.

In Nevett, PIR has gotten a leader with a wealth of experience and an invaluable array of strong existing relationships. While be brings a lot to the table he was even more excited about what he found already in place at PIR. "I have inherited an amazing team at PIR and together we will look at  how we work together with our registrar partners and how we delight our customers and end users."

One point that may still need added emphasis after all these years is that .org is not just for non-profits. As I noted earlier, organizations of all kinds have taken advantage of the trust and recognition engendered by using .org as their home base. "Absolutely correct," Nevett said. "We are much broader than just non-profits. They are a very important part of our end user customer base, but for any kind of community or organization, .org is the right choice.  

While PIR is best known for .org, it is not the only TLD in their portfolio. There is .ngo and .ong (for non-governmental organizations), as well three IDN's (Internationalized Domain Names) that are the .org equivalents for Chinese, Cyrillic and Hindi speaking markets. Nevett noted, ".ngo and .ong provide more

of a "walled garden" in that you need to have validation to use those. You also get a tool kit that comes with it. so a lot of our .ngo/.ong customers are thrilled with that."

(Left to right): Kurt Pritz (ICANN), Ken Hansen (Neustar) and Jon Nevett speaking on a  panel of experts at the 2010 DOMAINfest Global Conference in Los Angeles.

In a career that has been filled with highlights, we wondered what some of Nevett's favorite ones have been. "You know what, it was great to join the community when I first started in the early 2000s," Nevett said. "I got to know the people and to me the ICANN/Domain community is another family. I am fortunate that I joined this family and when I see my friends and "family" members, it is like a reunion every few months at a trade show or ICANN meeting. It is the relationships I've built over the years, it is the people that are here that have been a highlight for me. And then the new TLD program was an opportunity - creating hundreds of new TLDS, was fun - and now I am in the position of almost "giving back" and working for the betterment of a larger community with PIR and .org. I was fortunate that this opportunity came up and I seized it! I couldn't think of a better job. I stay in the community, do the work that I've done for many years and do it for good!

*****


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