Do organizations have to use domains according to their financial status and would they be liable for civil or criminal liability if they didn't use domains appropriate to their status (non profit/.org or for profit/.com). Also would using a website that has ad revenue or cookies on it automatically make one a customer or trader legally (the item traded being personal data)?

  • 1
    There was a time when .org did not exist...
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:42
  • @JonCuster that time was also the time when .com did not exist. Both were created on January 1, 1985.
    – phoog
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:43
  • This blog claims: While [.com] was originally conceived to host commercial websites, nowadays its use has extended to any type of site, despite the long list of alternatives devised for other purposes.. Apr 18, 2023 at 13:44
  • @phoog - sigh, old brain. Org was not taken up nearly as fast as Com as I recall at the time. But I was mostly on Edu. All of it was better than Bitnet addresses...
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 18, 2023 at 13:50
  • 1
    but can visiting a website which earns profits through ads that you view a commercial transaction ?
    – user49663
    Apr 18, 2023 at 14:30

2 Answers 2


There is no law pertaining to top level domains, defining "appropriateness". Instead, some organization is an administrator, and there is an understanding as to what the purpose of the domain is, but this is not legally enforceable. The TLDs com, org, net are open to anyone, whereas edu is limited in the US to accredited post-secondary institutions, however some non-educational commercial enterprises were grandfathered in. Insofar as registering a com-domain website does not entail "an intent to make profit" and registering an org-domain website does not entail "an intent to not make a profit", there is no deception w.r.t. internet users. One would of course have to be truthful in registering the domain.

Public Interest Registry, the administrator for org, does not even purport that businesses registered under org should be "nonprofit".


Your (and many other people's) understanding of "non-profit" is incorrect. How do you think small organizations grow into multinational and worldwide organizations that dwarf for-profit businesses? By making a profit. Non-profits should be making a profit for financial stability and growth. However, there are limits. Laws and regulations will vary by locality and country.

Do some research, but this is a good place to learn a little about it: Myths About Nonprofits

As for the tech side, .org was initially thought of being used for non-profits. However, there is no law or rule in a Terms of Service stating this. Certainly no one was checking whether or not an organization was or was not for-profit. Just like there is no rule requiring a .com address be used for commercial purposes. As the internet took off, the demand for domain names skyrocketed and the initial plan for Top Level Domains was quickly abandoned and even more were added. Why? For profit!

  • 1
    Non-profit doesn’t actually mean not profit-making. It means not paying dividends or being sold for capital gain. But that’s too verbose, and so the shorter but technically inaccurate term is used instead.
    – Mike Scott
    Apr 19, 2023 at 6:23

You must log in to answer this question.