Q&A: Meet Jonathon Nevett, Public Interest Registry’s New President and Chief Executive Officer

By Jim LeFevre – Senior Director of Marketing, Public Interest Registry 

In December of 2018, we welcomed a new leader to Public Interest Registry – Jonathon Nevett, our new President and Chief Executive Officer. Jon brings decades of domain expertise to the company and an impressive track record of industry leadership that will be instrumental to the ongoing growth and success of the .org domain.

We’re thrilled to welcome Jon to PIR and decided to sit down with him so he can share more about his background, what motivated him to join us at .org and some of his priorities and goals for the .org domain.

Tell us about yourself! What led you to where you are today?

I started my career in government service and then as a lawyer by trade. After a few years of practicing at a law firm, I moved to working at a large telecommunications company and started gravitating away from the law and towards the business side of a regulated industry. I then made the transition to Network Solutions and the domain industry and haven’t looked back. I’ve worked in a variety of capacities within the industry – from starting out as an ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) policy wonk to serving as the Chairman of the Board of two industry joint ventures; from establishing a business ethics program to leading a government affairs effort. I have been fortunate enough to serve on various industry advisory groups and panels, as well as helped start our own industry trade association.

Most recently, I co-founded and served as an executive vice president at Donuts Inc., a domain registry that manages hundreds of new domain extensions. Over the eight years I was with Donuts, I had the opportunity to help raise over $150M in funding, build a registry from the ground up, and manage an amazing team of professionals. When this position opened at PIR, however, I knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime and that the stars had aligned.

What made you pursue this new role at .org?

I’ve admired .org and PIR from afar since I began in the industry. PIR’s mission is to ensure that all who are committed to the public interest have a voice online and I knew immediately that’s a mission I wanted to support. Joining the great team at PIR is an opportunity for me to stay in the industry I love and continue to work within the community that has supported me throughout my career. Additionally, I’ve lived in the greater DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area for over 25 years and PIR is right in my backyard, so I didn’t risk the ire of my family in trying to get them to relocate.

What most excites you about this new role?

I wholeheartedly believe that .org is the crown jewel of the domain name system and my job is to polish it and let it shine as much as possible. It is known that .org has a long-standing reputation as a best-in-class domain, particularly when it comes to domain security, trust, and reliability. I felt that joining .org would give me an opportunity to do something good, as it is a purpose-driven domain for people who want to do great things online. Leading .org gives me a chance to help empower those people and help change the world for the better.

Many people also forget that PIR is a nonprofit, so we have our own public interest mission. Importantly, every time someone chooses a .org domain, a portion of their domain purchase goes toward supporting the Internet Society and its great work like keeping the internet free and open and helping to bring internet access to every corner of the globe. I’m honored to be at the helm of such an impactful organization like PIR and want to do everything I can during my tenure to enhance the .org domain.  

What are some of your priorities and goals for PIR and the .org domain?

Quality of the domain space will always be a big focus for me. I want to uphold .org’s reputation for being safe, secure, trustworthy, and a place for mission-based organizations and individuals to bring their ideas to life. That emphasis on quality means the total domains under management (DUM) metric won’t rule supreme. There are more important qualitative metrics that I plan to implement that will ultimately be more critical to the long-term health and growth of .org.

Additionally, I’m looking forward to fostering the education and outreach element of our charter and have some ideas for how to ramp up those efforts in the coming years. We have strong expertise as an organization on issues such as web identity, web presence, and how .orgs can be most successful on the internet, so you can expect in the near future to see PIR sharing our expertise with the greater non-profit community in new and creative ways. We also have some other exciting developments coming soon for the organization, but we are keeping them under wraps for now.

Finally, I’m just really excited to be joining an organization with such a strong internal culture and so many inspiring and talented people across the globe. I want to keep building on that foundation and ensure .org stays a great place to work – somewhere people can really grow and thrive professionally. And while we’re at it, let’s have a little fun!

What are you doing when you aren’t running one of the original domain extensions?

Family and friends and my various communities are my focus when I am not thinking about domain names.  My wife, Karen, and I have three amazing kids – two in college (Rachel and Michael) and one in high school (Danielle) – and our personal time mostly revolves around them (especially girls travel soccer!).

I have also served for many years on the board of the Green Acres School, a progressive school founded 85 years ago and the first integrated school in Montgomery County, Maryland.

One of my most important achievements this year is that I am the proud winner of the ICANN community fantasy football championship and of course, all the bragging rights that go with it.