Dot Eco – Uniting Environmental Websites? Or Distraction?


When it comes to combating climate change, Dot Eco LLC has a plan: to establish an obviously green, top-level web domain (TLD). It is high time, Dot Eco founders believe, that environmental websites gain the instant-recognizability of the .coms, .nets, .govs, .edus, and .orgs of the world. Moreover, by establishing .eco as a credible TLD, Dot Eco will, it believes, be able to provide steady funding for environmental organizations while increasing environmental initiatives and awareness.

“How will it do so?” you ask. Simple: the web is divided into several semantically meaningful zones (i.e. education, government, and organizations), each of which is denoted by a TLD (i.e. .edu, .gov, and .org). To be included in a TLD, an organization must meet certain benchmarks for that TLD (i.e. for .edu inclusion, an organization must be an accredited academic institution and contain relevant information on its site). Sustainability proponents would like to believe that environmentalism is becoming semantically meaningful enough to deserve its own TLD, hence the creation of the .eco domain name.

Creating a moniker-specific TLD for a group of random (but similar) websites has an effect similar to that of a well-known philanthropist adopting several orphans and giving them all his last name: the renaming creates a sense of “community” for the orphans, prevents them from slipping through the cracks, and prevents their mistaken identification with other philanthropists. Similarly, by adopting a .eco domain name, environmental organizations can join an online community of likeminded groups. By making sure the .eco domain is well-established, Dot Eco will lend credibility to participating sites, thereby increasing their chances of obtaining funding. Currently, Dot Eco also gives more than half of its profits to organizations committed to fighting global warming.

To qualify for the .eco domain, organizations must affirm their concurrence with Dot Eco founding principles and fund proven climate change combating efforts. Former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, the Sierra Club, and the Surfrider Foundation area among the organizations backed, via charter, by .eco funding.

Sarah Harper is a professional writer based in San Francisco, California. Her interests include sustainability, government policy, and international politics. In her free time, Sarah enjoys toying with the idea of holistic health, overanalysis, and plotting world exploration.

17 responses

  1. I’ve mentioned this before, but I really think this is a somewhat ridiculous and potentially divisive thing to do. It runs the risk of further siloing the environmental movement at precisely the same time that it should be seen as integral to everything else. It’s great if it raises money for something, but if you’re running a cause based non-profit, what’s wrong with .org?

    1. I agree wholeheartedly Nick. We want ‘eco’ practices (and social/human sustainability which are of course inextricably intertwined with ‘eco’) to become business as usual. It’s already happening. Let’s keep weaving in sustainability at all levels in all organizations.

  2. My first impression was this was a cool idea, if it’s “enforced” at the level of .edu, but Nick and Liz are totally right. It’s probably a bad idea actually. EVERYTHING has to become “eco”. From products to processes to economies and mindsets — they ALL need to become sustainable, and asap. “Eco” isn’t some marginal or specialty thing… it must be a mandate for all design and ways of operating going forward.

  3. There’s a big difference right now between how things should be and how they really are. I agree that ideally eco and green should simply be business as usual instead of niece. But the truth is, it is niece, and it’s far from being business as usual. My fear would be that this is yet another way for gray economy companies to make themselves seem greener than they are. And from that perspective I too have a problem with this. But if it can be used as a tool to get more people and companies to the table, then I’m all for it. We have a long way to go before eco and green are no longer marginal but the norm.

    1. Gil + Nick, totally agree about “dot freako”. I’ve read that the founders behind the domain plan to foil possible greenwashing by policing whether people deserve to have the dot or not (they use the term “filter”, but let’s just call it what it would be – a subjective value judgment, aka censorship, aka a non-starter).

  4. Agree with most of the posters here…surely the true goal is to integrate sustainability into all aspects and sectors. This suffix is a non-starter. There are already plenty of .orgs who use .coms in order to be more easily found….and a couple the other way round (e.g., Craigslist)

  5. i’m all for an exerted effort to measure/validate eco-standards… but i also agree that this particular route is a bad idea. it’s a nice attempt at good business persuading traditional business to become more conscious, but greenwashing would be WAY too easy. and that moves us farther from our goal of real and lasting improvement.

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  7. Obviously greenwashing is bad, but the guys doing .ECO (we act as their registry services provider) know that and are taking steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen. I haven’t noticed that .org takes any steps to prevent this, and in fact it’s loaded with greenwashing sites.

    @Nick – there’s nothing wrong with .ORG, but .ORG isn’t proposing to (and doesn’t) contribute millions to combat climate change and global warming. .ECO will.

    @William Brent – every value judgment is subjective, so of course there will be subjective judgments. But whose? The .ECO plan is to have the community (those who hold .ECO domain names), who have a real interest in preventing it, to police the space. Most people don’t get this because in .com or .org there’s no-one to complain to, and no-one polices anything. Many of the country-code domain names, in contrast, regularly police their namespaces, and do a good job of it.

    I’m the author of the paper linked to by Sarah (“How will it do so”), and I go into some detail about how this can be achieved, and the consequences of not doing so. I’ll be happy to answer anyone’s questions about it, if they leave comments on the Minds + Machines blog.

    Thanks for the article, Sarah! I don’t agree with everything (e.g., “orphans”), but that’s fine. It’s a good debate and I’m glad to see people weighing in.


  8. Hi Everyone,

    We figure someone is going to apply for dot eco, so the question of whether it should exist is pretty moot.

    The deeper issue is how should it be run and what can it be used to achieve.

    There’s a lot of smart people in this stream, would be great to get your thoughts!

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