Al Gore joins call for new '.eco' Internet domain

Al Gore and his group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, have joined forces with Dot Eco LLC to call for a new top-level domain for environmental websites.

By , Blogger for The Christian Science Monitor

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    Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winner Al Gore testifies in January before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Climate Change.
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Al Gore and his group, the Alliance for Climate Protection, have joined forces with Dot Eco LLC to call for a new top-level domain for environmental websites.

Here's how Dot Eco describes the proposed domain, ".eco":

.eco will be established for individuals to express their support for environmental causes, for companies to promote their environmental initiatives, and for environmental organizations to maintain their websites in a namespace that is more relevant to their core missions. By charter, a majority of the profits of the .eco initiative will be distributed to support environmental causes.

"This is a truly exciting opportunity for the environmental movement and for the Internet as a whole,” said Mr. Gore in the release.

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The online enviro-mag Grist reports that Dot Eco will be applying for approval from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) later this year.

If .eco is approved, it will join .com, .org, .net, .biz., .info and all those country-specific domain names that append websites' addresses.

Is '.eco' logical?

It's a common misconception that Al Gore once claimed to have invented the Internet. He never said such a thing. The myth was inadvertently started by a reporter for Wired and has been repeated endlessly by countless news outlets (including the Monitor).

But someone who can legitimately lay claim to a similar title – Inventor of the Web – has strong opinions about the proliferation of top-level domain names.

While working at CERN in Geneva in the 1980s and early '90s, English computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed HTML, HTTP, and the first Web browser, which he christened WorldWideWeb. You can view one of his earliest Web pages here.

In 2004, Mr. Berners-Lee argued vociferously against creating two new top-level domain names, ".xxx" for adult sites and ".mobi" for mobile devices. Here's what he said in a letter to ICANN:

In practice, for most domain name owners, the part between the "www" and the top level domain is their brand, or their name. It is something they need to protect. This means that in practice, a serious organization to avoid confusion has to own its domain in every non-geographical top level domain. For a large company, the cost of this may be insignificant. For a small enterprise, a non-profit organization or a family, the cost becomes very significant.
The chief effect of the introduction of the .biz and .info domains appears to have been a cash influx for the domain name registries. Example Inc. ... owns example.com, org and .net. Does it also have to buy .biz, .info, and .name to avoid confusion and the misappropriation of my name by others?

Of course, one big difference between ".eco" and ".xxx" is that the domain registries don't get to keep all the money: As Dot Eco says, they would have to send "a majority" of the funds to "environmental causes."

But if the new domain name is designed specifically for environmental groups, then all it would do is force sierraclub.org, greenpeace.org, wwf.org, and the thousands of other eco-outfits worldwide to spend money on registering new domain names. And then presumably only some of them would get a portion of that money back. That sounds like a net loss for environmental causes.

The only way such a scheme would actually raise money for the environment would be if it also compelled a whole lot of  other, non-environmentalist websites to buy up ".eco" domain names. That way, the environmental movement would be partly subsidized by the creation of yahoo.eco, aol.eco, cocacola.eco, and icanhascheezburger.eco. Is that really the plan?

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