Happy (Belated) Birthday! A Look Back at 30 Years of “.org”

As the web-based home of nonprofit and charitable organizations, the .org top-level domain has meant a lot to associations over the last 30 years. In honor of the milestone, the Public Interest Registry launched a website that provides a unique snapshot of .org’s history.

We here at Associations Now would like to wish a happy belated birthday to the .org domain, which turned 30 years young on Friday.

To celebrate the occasion, Public Interest Registry (PIR)—the nonprofit organization that operates the .org top-level domain—created an entire website (that uses the .org domain, of course) dedicated to the internet’s third-largest generic top-level domain. Visitors can go through a .org timeline and read about the history of the domain.

“Thirty years and more than 10.5 million registrants later, the .org domain continues to give a voice to organizations and individuals working on behalf of the greater good,” Brian Cute, CEO of PIR, said in a statement. “From encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism to preserving natural and cultural heritage, fostering economic growth and much more, causes that live on .org bring incalculable benefits to our communities, our society and our shared planet. We look forward to many more years of giving organizations of all kinds a trusted online home for building communities and working towards a common cause.”

It all started on July 10, 1985, when the address was officially registered. The MITRE Corporation—a nonprofit company that operates several federally funded research and development centers—was looking for a way to distinguish itself from commercial (.com), educational (.edu), and governmental (.gov) organizations.

It’s amazing to see how large, global, and diverse this community has become and the impact .org has had for so many causes.

“MITRE played a pivotal role in managing the systems of domains in the early stages of the Internet’s development, but as a private, not-for-profit organization, our brand didn’t align with other emerging domains,” Joel Jacobs, MITRE vice president and chief information officer, said in the statement. “The .org domain seemed to be the best fit and we were fortunate to be the first registrant. We believe that being part of the .org domain has done much to reinforce MITRE’s identity as an organization that works in the public interest. It’s amazing to see how large, global, and diverse this community has become and the impact .org has had for so many causes.”

PIR shared a few more notable .org launches:

  • Blogging platform WordPress, which is seen and used by tens of millions of people per day, debuted on May 27, 2003.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation launched the open-sourced online encyclopedia on January 13, 2001. The site has become one of the top-10 most trafficked sites globally.
  • UNICEF, which has offices in 190 countries and territories, brought online on March 10, 1993

From 1985 through 2004, about 3 million sites joined MITRE in the .org space. Then, with the dot-com boom of the mid-2000s, .org also experienced tremendous growth, doubling in size to 6 million by 2007. PIR credited the growth to an increase in the number of corporate social responsibility programs, which saw .com registrants double down on a corresponding .org domain to serve as the home for their charitable and philanthropic work.

In 2012, .org hit the 10 million mark when—the web presence for the Jordan River and Dead Sea Basin Forum—went online.

Have any .org stories you’d like to share? Leave them (and your .org birthday wishes) in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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