To raise awareness and garner support for World AIDS Day, we are excited to feature a Q and A with Carolin Silbernagl of dotHIV. Carolin and her team are hoping to start the world’s first charity TLD using a unique approach that turns the traditional TLD model on its head. Read on for more information about .HIV, the power of innovation and the mythical creatures behind every great social entrepreneur.

Q. Tell us a little bit about .HIV : 

.hiv domain names will be the Red Ribbons of the digital age. They will raise funds to support HIV projects, foster awareness of the cause and fight the stigmatization of people living with HIV. The registry dotHIVworks on a charitable basis; all surpluses will be distributed to organizations working in the field of HIV/AIDS. The .hiv TLD will be the first TLD ever, solely serving a social cause.

Have a look at the basic concept in 111 seconds:

Q. What makes .HIV different from most other new TLDs? 

The special twist: dotHIV will use the assembled registration fees to finance a micro-donation program. Every visit of a .hiv website will redirect a small amount of money to HIV projects. By this, surfing on .hiv websites becomes an easy and fun way of doing good.

With that, a .hiv domain name is part of a broader domain name portfolio. Registrants are free to use it as they please, but are advised to simply forward to the standard homepage. With this basic principle, .hiv-domains provide a second entry door to the usual web content – but enhance the surfing experience through the micro-donation. We want registrants to think about .hiv domain names as a tool for online communication with a social core.

Q. What sparked the idea behind .HIV?

The team working on dotHIV has a strong communication background. In 2009, three of us – Philipp, Stefan and Martin – did pro-bono work for a German foundation working in the field of HIV. While designing awareness ads, they tried to think of something bigger – something interactive, with a broad or even global reach. Something that could really match the importance of the topic. And they came up with the idea of .hiv. We had no clue back then, that a charitable TLD would be pioneering work that would take five years until realization.

Q. What is the biggest challenge .HIV has faced so far?

Securing the budget necessary for the TLD application and future operation was a major task. As an applicant based in Europe dotHIV was not eligible for ICANN’s Applicant Support Program despite the charitable mission of our work. Working on a 100% non-profit basis, with at least 70% of our revenue going to the HIV response, classic venture capital was no means neither. We knocked on many doors and won more and more supporters to finally kick it off. No chance to do it without our founding partners, the charitable online donation platform and the creative agency thjnk (formerly kempertrautmann).

Q. Tell us a little bit about the reception .HIV has received so far.  

We receive great feedback and support, wherever we go.

The domain name sphere has received dotHIV with open arms: both, ICANN as an organization and the community as a whole, have supported what we do from the very beginning. This has resulted in great partnerships. NCC is providing their escrow services for free, Sedo supports our premium domain strategy at special conditions and with Afilias, we have a wonderful backend provider that matches our ambitions for global reach.

From a market perspective, the interest in the pre-registration of .hiv domain names is taking off and we are in close talks with major players in IT and big end-consumer brands to prepare for a joint launch campaign in 2013, that will make a blast in Europe and the US once we go online.

Last but not least, we can only reach the impact we hope for with co-creation from and a broad acceptance within the international HIV communities. We are partnering with the “Deutsche AIDS Hilfe” as Europe’s biggest HIV-umbrella organization and are constantly getting further organizations and experts on board.

Q. Any tips for how our readers can become involved on World AIDS Day today? 

I would love to say: surf on today and raise some money for the cause with your clicks.

But we still have to wait for that one – we hope to have .hiv domains online by World AIDS Day 2013.

Of course, there is a lot everyone can do this year.

– Wear an offline Red Ribbon – it’s the classic way to show solidarity. Looks best with shirts in black or dark blue.

– Get tested. Knowing your status is the first step to stay safe.

– And of course: visit dotHIV on Facebook and hit “Like” to stay with us.

And just for some fun stuff….

Q. As a frequent ICANN attendee – any particularly funny/memorable moments from an ICANN meeting?

Coming from social sciences background and civil society project work, the first look at the Acronym Glossary at my first ICANN meeting in Singapore surely was a memorable moment, with one back-thought: What have I gotten myself into??! Click here to see for yourself: Fortunately, the team and I have become rather fluent in ICANN scrabble in the meantime.

Q. Favorite mythical creature? 

Unicorn … and dragon. You probably need to love both to be a good Social Entrepreneur.unicorn for .hiv

Inspired to get more involved? Check out (Sprecken Sie Deutsch? – )

You can also pre-register a .HIV domain directly from the dotHIV or from your friendly neighborhood registrar.