Green search engine lays down Australian roots

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Green search engine lays down Australian roots

A new, free-to-use search engine has been launched in Australia with the promise of sponsoring the growth of up to two trees for every 1000 Web searches made.

Launched today, ecocho acts as a Web portal between users and popular search engines Yahoo and Google, and claims to offset carbon emissions with no speed, quality or monetary costs to users.

The service is made available through agreements between ecocho and the search providers that allow Google and Yahoo to provide search technology and results for the new site. Ecocho’s founder Tim Macdonald expects the site’s use of the already popular search technologies to appeal to the ample pool of current users to the technologies.

“Yahoo and Google are the two dominant search engines worldwide,” he told iTnews. “We’ve really stuck with these two main ones [search engines] because they are the ones which are most used by people to get the results that they want on the Internet.”

“We are basically providing users with the same search results that they receive from either of those two sites, so people are already familiar and trust the quality and the speed of those search results,” he said.

Ecocho’s launch in Australia is part of a global initiative that involves 14 countries, including Germany, France and New Zealand. By locating international servers as close as possible to the site’s users, Macdonald expects users of ecocho to experience negligible speed differences compared to using Google and Yahoo directly.

Similar to existing search engine business models, ecocho is supported by advertising revenue, of which 30 percent goes towards the site’s operational costs and 70 percent is put towards planting trees.

Based on the sheer volume of Web searches conducted by Australian Internet users, Macdonald expects the site to make an impact on the environment – especially since the advertising-supported model enables users to make a difference without having to spend any money or alter their personal lifestyles.

“It’s an advertising-supported [tree planting] scheme,” Macdonald said. “This effectively is free for a user and it’s something that you do everyday already.”

“There’s definitely a lot of user interest in climate change issues because it’s really important,” he said. “When we knew that one percent of people actually take money out of their wallets and pay to offset their flights, we thought, well if something is free, a much bigger percentage [of people] than that would be interested.”

In Australia, ecocho will purchase carbon-offset credits through the New South Wales Government Greenhouse Gas Abatement Scheme (GGAS). The site will employ financial audit, tax, and advisory firm KPMG to check the acquisition, registration and retirement of the carbon credits.

According to ecocho’s Australian Web site, the site already has sponsored the growth of 2702 trees in Orange, Oberon, and Mona Vale, all in New South Wales.

“We’re aiming pretty big,” Macdonald said. “We don’t have a set number in mind, but we’re thinking that it’s entirely possible to be doing [sponsoring] tens of thousands of trees in a year.”

“In Australia alone you’ve got almost 800 million searches performed every month. If we could capture even 5 percent of that market, that’s an enormous number of trees that can be planted.”
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