New .eco web domain emerges as platform for eco-friendly businesses

Vancouver company offers branding opportunity to green-minded organizations
Dot Eco co-founders Trevor Bowden (left) and Jacob Malthouse say their new .eco web domain can help environmentally friendly businesses establish a distinct green identity online | Photo: Chung Chow

The new .eco web domain allows small businesses and non-profits that stand for environmental responsibility to have a website that is emblematic of their company’s vision, says the Vancouver group that spearheaded the domain name.

Dot Eco co-founder Jacob Malthouse used his background working with the United Nations and internet regulator Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, alongside his business partner, Trevor Bowden, to create the idea for a .eco domain, which was launched in April.

The .eco domain “really embodies the opportunity and challenge of progress,” Bowden said. “To have a consensus on a way forward on how it should be run, I think, has a huge potential to be a model for a way forward that is less of an either-or scenario and more of [an answer to] ‘How can we progress as humans without unduly harming our environment and destroying our planet?’”

Malthouse said .eco is particularly important for start-ups looking to commit to an environmental cause through their website. When companies sign up for .eco, they must take a pledge and create an online portfolio through profiles.eco, a page that publicly displays their environmental goals. This creates an online community of like-minded businesses that can learn from each other.

“We found that those that need help are the millions of small businesses, with less than 10 employees around the world, of which a huge portion care about environmental issues,” Malthouse said. “What we do is give them a domain name and give them a profile that acts as an assistant that helps them learn, engage, understand how they can take environmental action without taking up a day or week of their time.”

Local non-profit group City Farmer is using the .eco domain to promote urban agriculture through online updates about its garden in Kitsilano and its workshops in which employees teach residents about city gardening.

“To have a .eco domain attached to our name is really important because that’s who we are; that’s what we’ve done,” said City Farmer executive director Michael Levenston. “We are a non-profit, but this distinguishes us from being an ‘org.’ It’s just a great new hat we can wear to show who we are and what we do.”

Webnames.ca CEO Cybele Negris said having a .eco domain can be a useful tool given the increasing importance of sustainability. The domain sends a clear message that can differentiate an organization from others with competing domains like .org, .green and .organic.

“I think the nice thing about .eco is that it’s short; it’s three letters like .org, but it’s very specific to a purpose.” Negris said. “There’s .green as well, but .green is much longer and green can also be somebody’s last name, green could obviously mean politics and so forth. There’s also .organic, but I think .eco is a little bit more general than organic, where organic is very specific to food products.”

Negris also sees the potential for small businesses and non-profits to align their brands with .eco’s mandate.

“If they don’t already have an existing brand that they’ve invested a lot of money, time and resources in promoting over the years, .eco’s an alternative choice for them.”

Malthouse recognizes the potential accountability issues around the domain name and its purpose. To ensure transparency and trust, Dot Eco checks the profiles of those who register under .eco and flags content that goes against the pledge and mandate of the domain. The company has the right to suspend or take down any site that goes against the values of the .eco domain.

“We’ll be conducting our own troll hunts, but we are also encouraging the community to be active and flag up profiles that they think are problematic,” Malthouse said. “We can talk to the registrants and work with them to improve it.”  

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