Monday, February 03, 2020

Hey nonprofits, your rent is going up 10X

Do you work for a "dot org?" Do you know there's an effort underway (currently put on hold by the California Attorney General) to sell the registry of .orgs to a private equity firm?

At a time when hands wring over closing civic space and the many ways technologies are being turned against us, this is the most concrete, least metaphorical example of how to shut down nonprofits I can imagine. Simply raise the rent on all nonprofits by raising the price they pay for their .org listing 2x, 3x, ...10x.

The .org signifier (or top level domain name, as it is known) is no longer proof of nonprofit status, it's use isn't limited to nonprofits, and nonprofit status itself is increasingly slippery as a guarantor of good things, but still, the .org matters. Does your nonprofit or foundation wants to lose it? Can you pay two, three, ten times more for it?

At the Digital Civil Society Lab, we often suggest to foundations and nonprofits that they think of their digital vendors (software, hardware, cloud, apps, mobile phones, email, etc) like landlords. You are doing your work in their space (on their servers, through their systems). The .org designation is (literally) your address.* And your rent is going up.

(This post only focuses on the financial elements of why this sale is bad for civil society. There are bigger, more philosophical and democracy-oriented reasons to care about the sale. It's an easy issue to join in coalition about - and if you're interested in why digital issues like this matter to your work - whatever that might be - read our newest report, Integrated Advocacy: Paths Forward for Digital Civil Society)

*Others also find value in the landlord metaphor - new research here on the "Internet of Landlords"

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