The green blogosphere has been buzzing about competing plans to launch a new "top level domain" called .eco. Some boldfaced green names are lining up, taking sides over the issue. But there doesn't seem to be enough discussion of why we need a .eco in the first place.
In one corner are Al Gore, the Sierra Club and the California group Dot Eco, and in the other are Canadian environmental group Big Room, WWF International and Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross. Both groups say they will apply to Icann -- the regulatory body that oversees domain names -- for the creation of .eco early in 2010.
Gore's crew says they want to grant .eco domains to green groups, then donate 57% of its profits from sales to support environmental causes. The Big Room group says they will also raise funds for green programs, and envision using .eco status to serve as a kind of labeling program for companies that want to tout their sustainability.
Raising money for green causes is a fine idea, but it seems to me that .eco is at best a gimmick and at worst something that could further "ghettoize" green. At the risk of sounding like an online fuddy-duddy, I'm skeptical that we need a bunch more domains. Supposedly Icann is working toward radically opening the field up, so every person or business could conceivably create their own top level domain -- ".michaelvick" anyone? On one hand it might not really matter what the domain says, but on the other it is nice to have some basic organization in the .com, .org, .edu, .gov system we currently enjoy. Still, there are many ways for environmental groups to raise money, some of them quite innovative, so I'm not sure why banking on Internet architecture is so important. Call me crazy, but I don't see the purpose of domain registrations as raising money so much as providing a smooth and fair platform for people to build their own innovations on.
What really worries me about .eco is that it could relegate green stuff further to the extremes, the fringes, of the global conversation. Already there is some evidence of "green fatigue" and "green backlash." Any time an article about any green topic gets play in mainstream areas like the front pages of portals, there are invariably some attacks against "Al Whore," even if Gore has nothing to do with the specific topic at hand. I've been told my editors of major magazines that "green is tired," so it isn't just the anti-green haters to worry about.
Most importantly, the goal of most environmentalists has been to integrate green living into all aspects of society, so that eventually their jobs will either disappear, or will shift more to quiet watchdogs from active agitators (take that Penn & Teller, and other extremists who bizarrely attack environmentalism as a way for proponents to make money...because there is so much more money in working for green orgs and nascent businesses than working for The Man). Greens want everything to be eco-friendly and sustainable, not just things posted on special websites, printed in special niche publications or talked about at certain localvore dinner parties.
I don't see why green sites need their own identifier and separate domain, when we should be reaching as many people as possible. What do you think?
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