In the high-stakes world of internet domains, .eco was a dream green prize — and is now finally going online

CBC NewsImagine sitting across from your friend at a pub, several pints in, with a big idea — one that could change the internet and maybe even help the planet. The prelude, perhaps, to nothing but a hangover.

But for Trevor Bowden and Jacob Malthouse, that night in 2007 was the start of a multi-year quest to secure soon-to-be-released online real estate: the domain of .eco, which they believed could be an asset to the environmental movement.

“We knew that there was this opportunity coming up,” recalls Malthouse. “Four or five pints later, we were like, you know what? We’re probably the only two environmentalists on the planet who know this is happening. If we don’t try and do something about it we’re never going to forgive ourselves.”

Finally, after eight years of high-stakes internet bureaucracy — and a fight famously linked to Al Gore and Mikhail Gorbachev — Bowden and Malthouse won stewardship of the .eco domain, with the backing of dozens of environmental organizations.

Now, from their one-room office in Vancouver’s Chinatown, they’re doling out the very first .eco sites — not via big-money auctions common in the domain-name industry, but on the basis of an environmental track record.

New territory online

The backdrop to this battle is a long-awaited explosion of new top-level domains, made available by the U.S. non-profit that decides these things, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

A top-level domain is the suffix of a web address, such as .com, .org, or in Canada, .ca. Like sought-after downtown real estate, these classic domains have become rather crowded, making territory scarce and sometimes pricey. So in 2014, ICANN began allowing a flood of new top-level domains — which now include anything from .pizza to .fail.

Big money is at play, at least for the most desirable new suffixes. Earlier this year, .shop sold at auction for $41 million US, and .web shattered records with a $135-million US price tag.

It’s hard to say which new domains will catch on, and “.com is still king,” said Maria Cypher, principal and creative director at Catchword Branding, who has created names for Starbucks and Fitbit, among others.

“We feel [.eco] stands a really good shot of being one of the real successes,” she wrote in an email, “because it’s short, pronounceable and meaningful. It’s a term that is widely understood to mean environment, sustainability, green … things that are important to a huge number of people.” …

Full story

Imagine sitting across from your friend at a pub, several pints in, with a big idea — one that could change the internet and maybe even help the planet….

It’s hard to say which new domains will catch on, and “.com is still king,” said Maria Cypher, principal and creative director at Catchword Branding …