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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Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher based in Silicon Valley focused on business, technology and the environment. His work has been featured in the New York Times and Guardian newspapers on topics that include: sustainable business practices, clean tech, the environment and next generation transportation technologies. He holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Contact him at jameswitkin@gmail.com

10 responses

  1. What is the actual advantage of having a .eco for a business? If their brand is already known as a eco-friendly brand, I would think they don’t need the .eco. If they are not known as an eco-friendly brand, I would think having a .eco URL isn’t going to gain them enough authenticity to offset not having a .com – even if the standards are tougher than existing certifications.
    Perhaps this would be better used for CSR initiatives within businesses to bring legitimacy to these efforts. That way they have a better selection of URLs and can brand and promote those initiatives to take on a life of their own outside the confines of the main brand.

  2. With all due respect to Al Gore, this sound’s like a totally useless idea at best, and downright distracting at worse. Why silo environmental work further? The only way we’ll get anywhere with solving environmental problems is to realize their connectedness with our economic and social problems as all. If it’s about organizations or companies with a philanthropic bent, then what’s wrong with .org?

  3. Yeah, I agree. Everywhere you look, every business is going “green.” In my area, some group claims to have opened a green pet hotel, just because they recycle and have installed some CFLs. Because there will never be clear cut criteria for evaluating who deserves the .eco domain and who doesn’t, the concept and practice will never gain credibility in the environmental community.

  4. Hi All,

    We thought you might be interested to learn about an alternate bid for dot eco that WWF and others are working on. We plan to use dot eco as a killer app in the fight against greenwash.

    More information on our .eco-system and the policy process we are preparing to launch is available at our site.

    The main thing to remember is dot eco can be done right, if the hard work is put in up front.

  5. Hi Blathra,
    We’re launching a policy development process that complies with the International Social and Environmental Alliance for Labelling Code of Best Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards.
    We have already held two meetings, one in Vancouver and one in Sydney. The next is in Sao Paulo on August 27th.
    You can read more about it here: http://doteco.info/policy
    For background on the Dot Eco System, see: http://doteco.info/about
    Do let me know if you have further questions.

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