Gore Endorses Dot Eco Domain Name: But Will the New Domain Be Credible?

algore-ap.jpgA new social venture, Dot Eco LLC, hopes to become the .eco domain registrar through the ICANN application process later this year. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) coordinates the Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and periodically expands domain names through a formal application process. Dot Eco’s efforts gained considerable visibility and credibility last week when Al Gore and his Alliance for Climate Protection announced their support.
If granted accreditation as the .eco domain registrar, Dot Eco has pledged to donate more than 50% of registration fees to fund initiatives and research in climate change, ocean analysis, economic policy, and other environmentally related areas.

But the Goreacle’s detractors are already voicing their skepticism: Will the .eco domain really succeed in attracting registrants and raising awareness, or will it crash and burn like several other seldom used domains (remember .mobi, .biz, .tv and .info)? By what standards will Dot Eco vet those organizations seeking an .eco domain? Who decides which environmental causes are worthy of receiving donations? And how does Dot Eco maintain the integrity of the .eco brand and avoid digital green washing?


In a recent interview with Earth2Tech, Dot Eco co-founder Minor Childers addressed some of these issues. Childers, who is based in Los Angeles, has been meeting with marketing agencies, working on celebrity endorsements, and expects the company to launch a $10 million marketing campaign in its early stages to push adoption of the .eco domain. The company is already talking with VCs about investing opportunities to fund these types of marketing efforts.

On the question of setting standards and maintaining the integrity of the .eco registration, Childers was a bit fuzzier. He said domain owners might have to adhere to some environmental criteria to keep their domain registration. Roy Neel, Gore’s chief of staff, says that The Alliance for Climate Protection fully supports “filters” to make sure dot eco is not exploited. But how they will define these filters and maintain compliance with a set of performance criteria remains to be seen.

Dot Eco LLC is the creation of Internet entrepreneurs Fred Krueger (who founded Tagworld) and Clark Landry, as well as Minor Childers, a Hollywood creative executive and film producer. Davis Guggenheim, the director of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, sits on the company’s advisory board. The company was founded in 2008 to secure, operate and promote the .eco domain through ICANN’s new generic top level domain (gTLD) process. ICANN is working to launch a new application round for gTLDs in late 2009. Any public or private-sector organization that meets certain operational and financial criteria can apply to create and operate a new gTLD.
If Dot Eco LLC is granted ICANN accreditation to operate the .eco registry, they collect registration fees from companies wishing to create an .eco domain. The pledge to donate most of their revenue to environmental research and initiatives may help to attract new registrants. And if the idea catches on, Childers believes his company could become “one of the largest contributors to environmental causes.”
Gore and the Alliance for Climate Protection are on board:

We fully support Dot Eco LLC in its efforts to secure the .eco top level domain and look forward to working with Dot Eco LLC to promote .eco. This is a truly exciting opportunity for the environmental movement and for the internet as a whole.

If they successfully secure the new domain, Dot Eco LLC will register companies seeking “to promote their environmental initiatives, and environmental organizations to maintain their websites in a namespace that is more relevant to their core missions.”

Sounds good, but first ICANN must accept their application, potential registrants must respond positively by buying and renewing .eco domain names, and Dot Eco must demonstrate they can separate the green from the green washed. Stay tuned.

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My professional experience over the past 20 years has taken me from Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley in various marketing research, marketing, business development and sales roles. I now work as a freelance environmental writer and researcher while pursuing an MBA in Sustainable Management at the Presidio Graduate School.I'm especially interested in the use of technology to address the issues of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development.You can keep tabs on me at Triple Pundit and the NY Times Green Inc blog, email me at jameswitkin@gmail.com, or find me typing away at the various coffee shops around Palo Alto.