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Forget the Dot Com Era, It’s Time for Dot Eco

The '.eco' top-level domain is here, and its creators say they will funnel proceeds to environmental projects.

by Ben Dickson
Apr 27 2017, 1:00pm

A new top-level domain will give businesses and organizations a means to manifest their support for a greener planet.

As of April 25, anyone can get a .eco address, the new dedicated domain extension for people committed to helping deal with environmental challenges. The launch is the result of a nine year effort supported by environmental non-profits such as World Wildlife Federation, Conservation International, United Nations Global Compact and Natural Resources Defense Council.

How will .eco contribute to environment protection? Applicants pay an annual $65-100 fee to register a .eco domain. Big Room Inc., the social enterprise leading the initiative, plans to establish a non-profit foundation that will allocate an undisclosed portion of .eco domain sales to fund technology infrastructure and operations capacity inside environmental charities and non-profits. A press release by the company states that environmental groups will play a key role in ensuring that .eco funds are responsibly distributed.

However, it will take a very large number of domains to have substantial impact.

"There are over 10 million .org domain names," said Jacob Malthouse, co-founder of .eco, in an email to Motherboard. "In the long run, we would like to rival that number. .eco operates as a social enterprise in partnership with the environmental community."

Aside from the financial contribution, .eco domain registrations also entails ethical obligations to protecting the environment. To activate their domain, applicants must pledge to support positive change for the planet and list their commitments to environmental action on the .eco community website.

The company has not yet explained how it plans to verify domain holders' adherence to their pledges and punish them for possible non-conformance. But having a public-facing environmental profile will impose a level of transparency on organizations that register for a .eco domain.

Top level domains are regulated by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a not-for-profit body that oversees the structure of the internet. In a nine-year battle to win the rights to operate the green domain, Malthouse and co-founder Trevor Bowden were pitted against contenders such as former US Vice President and Presidential Candidate Al Gore. To secure their bid, they built a coalition of support among environmental organizations that included Green Cross International, founded by former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Malthouse says a TLD endorsed by the global environmental community will provide environment-friendly organizations and companies with a URL that better represents their work and business values.

Early adopters include Koala, an Australian company that makes natural cleaning products, has switched from its .com domain to a .eco website. Greenpeace Argentina is also using a .eco domain to set up a petition page to save the oceans.

"Consumers will recognize .eco as the new global identity for brands and organizations committed to positive environmental change," Bowden said. "Early .eco domain holders have already inspired a positive ripple effect, encouraging other brands to register and promoting transparency and a new level of accountability in how companies broadcast their social, environmental and CSR mandates."

It's still too early to weigh the success and adoption rate of .eco, but the efforts of Big Room are commendable nonetheless. With crises such as global warming and a food shortage crisis lying ahead, the environment community needs all the help it can get.

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