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News: September 2009

AL GORE AND MIKHAIL GORBACHEV BATTLE FOR CONTROL OF .ECO DOMAIN

Source: Times Online, 9.09.2009

Al Gore, the former American vice-president, is at loggerheads with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian ex-president, over the rights to control a new “green” internet domain that could be worth billions.

The right to operate .eco — the green equivalent to .co.uk or .com — could become available as early as next year after efforts to extend the web’s reach by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), the body that oversees the internet’s structure.

The potential awarding of the coveted domain — a right that comes with a $100,000-plus (?60,700) price tag — has sparked a landgrab that has the two former statesmen pitted against each other. Mr Gore has lent his support to an alliance called Dot Eco LLC, while Mr Gorbachev is indirectly linked to Big Room, a Canadian alliance, through the support of Green Cross International, the Swiss-based ethical and social causes charity that he founded.

In an attempt to secure the moral high ground, Big Room promises that, if it wins the contest, it will donate a quarter of the sales that it generates selling domain names to environmental and social causes.

Big Room is also pledging to ensure that it will award a domain name only to groups that provide proof of their green credentials, thus making .eco into a cyber environmental kitemark. Trevor Bowden, a co-founder of Big Room, said: “Domain names are uniquely able to fight for our planet because they are global, accessible from any web browers, anytime, anywhere and already used by millions.

“.eco will open up a whole new suite of domains that will make it easier for ecofriendly businesses, organisations, and people to find each other and brand themselves online.” He declined to say how much he would charge companies to use a .eco domain name if Big Room was successful, but added that the price would be “competitive with other internet names that are on the market”.

The rush for .eco is part of a wider grab for new web addresses after Icann liberalised the awarding of top-level domains, such as .com or .uk.The internet body announced last year that, under new rules, people would be able to apply for any top-level name at the end of a web address. Previously, they had been restricted.

Scripts other than Latin, such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Cyrillic, will also be allowed. The owner of a domain wins the right to sell web addresses that fit its criteria.

Last month Mr Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection released a green paper containing its pitch for ownership of the domain. The group said that it was “committed to operating .eco as a tight, customer-focused, well-run business in order to use our revenues to help the environment”.

Adam Taylor, of Adlex solicitors, which specialises in internet matters, said: “Given that these two big players are already involved, I would expect there to be a lot of interest in this.” Despite the potential financial gain, he said that the costs of operating an internet registry were considerable because of the costs of providing the necessary databases, servers and routers. Verisign, the company that owns and manages .com, is estimated to have spent more than $100 million developing the .com infrastructure.

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