Branding the Eco Web

The new .eco domain name will soon be available, but will it be credible?
by Bennett Gordon, Utne.com
Online Exclusive, September 2009
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Beyond the .com’s, the .net’s, and the .org’s of the world, a new group of .eco domain names will likely become available to internet users in the next year. Utne Reader could register utne.eco, and I could register BennettGordon.eco. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the organization that controls internet domain names, could add some 300 new domain names in 2010, according to SupportNewTLDS.com, including .music for music fans, .nyc for New York City, and .gay for the LGBT community. 

The idea behind .eco is to create a way for companies and individuals to show support for the environment, while making some money for environmental organizations at the same time. The Dot Eco Alliance company is currently making a bid for control of the .eco domain, pledging that more than half of its profits will go to organizations like the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation, and the Alliance for Climate Protection.

Much of the press surrounding the new domain name has focused on the fight between two companies vying for control: A company called Big Room is challenging The Dot Eco Alliance for control over the domain. No matter who wins the battle, an overarching question, according to the Triple Pundit blog, is “will the new domain be credible?” More specifically, how does the .eco avoid becoming a way for environmental offenders to disingenuously greenwash their companies into looking more environmentally friendly?

In an interview with Utne Reader, the Dot Eco Alliance cofounder Minor Childers cited the organization’s impressive list of backers as the way the domain will remain credible. Al Gore has backed the company and the Sierra Club’s Mark Massara recently signed on as The Dot Eco Alliance’s Chief Policy Officer to make sure the companies involved adhere to the organization’s guidelines. A recent policy paper released from The Dot Eco Alliance also outlines community policing structures to prevent companies from abusing the domain.

The Dot Eco Alliance identified eight core principals that potential .eco organizations must stick to, if they want to be a part of the domain. Companies must affirm that “We are responsible for climate change and we have a responsibility to fix it,” and “Climate change can be corrected.”

Though the principals are important, Childers insists that the domain name “is not some sort of a badge, like a LEED certification… We are giving people an opportunity to express their support” for the environment.








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