Past, Present, and Future: Technology at PIR

Remember 2018? Oh, those heady, carefree days of our youth. Strangers sat next to other people on planes and in restaurants; travel existed and food made by other people didn’t make its way to your table via your front door, in leaky plastic containers. Imagine living like that. Insanity.


2018 was also the year that PIR decided to broaden its in-house capabilities with an investment in technology; to extend the independence and leadership that has long been on display in policy and governance circles to include its own, distinct voice in Internet engineering. And by some avalanche of good fortune whose karma I will no doubt be paying back for decades, PIR chose me to shape the first few syllables by hiring me as its first Chief Technology Officer at the beginning of 2019.


PIR is not a normal registry. It competes effectively with commercial, profit-driven registries but is, itself, not-for-profit. Success is measured by growth not just in raw numbers, domains under management, revenue, costs, but in responsible and constructive growth for the entire global network. The financial support we provide to the Internet Society and the work they do gives us a much broader base of stakeholders than any commercial company: in a sense, we are responsible to the users of the Internet, those who exist today and the many more that will join in the future. 


So it’s in this unusual landscape that the beginnings of PIR’s technical voice was formed. We joined our back-end registry services provider Afilias in the technical community, helping to shape and develop the technical architecture that relates directly to our business, but also trying to look more broadly at what the right thing for the Internet looked like and how we could help steer things in what we see as the right direction. Internally, we invested in technology that could complement the technical operations of our registries and provide a rich foundation for data-driven decision-making.


Almost three years into this journey, none of this work is finished—not because we are slackers, but because by its nature this work is never complete. There is always more to do: more datasets to ingest; more analysis to do; more ideas and communities to support. The Internet will continue to grow and change with every new service and end-user that it connects. If we thought we were finished, that would just mean we weren’t paying attention.


However, while all of this work will continue at PIR, and while the new teams we built will continue to grow and flourish, my direct involvement is coming to a close: I am stepping down from my role at PIR and starting a new project with a new team. PIR’s commitment to technology in its staff and its mission will continue and will grow, but it will do so with new voices.


Leaving PIR was not an easy decision for me to make. However, it’s much easier for me to move on to embrace new and exciting challenges knowing that the PIR team I am leaving behind is in the best of hands, and that the next steward of PIR’s technical voice will join the rest of the team to take it to places that I hadn’t imagined.


Joe Abley
PIR CTO 2019-2021


To learn more about the role of Chief Technology Officer at Public Interest Registry or to apply for the position, click here.