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Ecosia
Ecosia logo
Type of site
Search engine
Available inEnglish and 27 other languages
CEOChristian Kroll
Revenue35.3M€ (2023)[1]
URLwww.ecosia.org Edit this at Wikidata
CommercialYes
Users>20 million[2][3]
Launched7 December 2009; 14 years ago (2009-12-07)
Current statusActive

Ecosia is a search engine based in Berlin, Germany. Ecosia considers itself a social business, claiming to be CO2-negative, supporting full financial transparency, and protecting the privacy of its users.[4][5]

Ecosia is B Lab certified, meeting its standards of accountability, sustainability, and performance. As of February 1, 2024, the company claims to have planted more than 200 million trees since its inception.[6][7]

History

Ecosia was launched on 7 December 2009 to coincide with UN climate talks in Copenhagen.[8] Over time, Ecosia has supported various tree-planting programs. Until December 2010, Ecosia's funds went to a WWF Germany program that protected Juruena National Park in the Amazon basin. To protect this area, the organizers drew up and financed plans with timber companies and local communities.[9]

Search engine

Ecosia website showing tree counter, 1 May 2023

At launch, the search engine provided a combination of search results from Yahoo! and technologies from Microsoft Bing and Wikipedia. Advertisements were delivered by Yahoo! as part of a revenue sharing agreement with the company.[10]

Ecosia's search results have been provided by Bing since 2017.[11] Advertisements provided by Microsoft Advertising appear alongside search results, and in 2022 Ecosia stated that it earns "a few cents" on every click of an ad, as well as a portion of the price of a purchase made through an affiliate link.[12] Search results from Google were added in September 2023.[13]

In 2018, Ecosia committed to becoming a privacy-friendly search engine. Searches are encrypted (with standard HTTPS) and not stored permanently, nor is data sold to third-party advertisers. The company states in its privacy policy that it does not create personal profiles based on search history or use external tracking tools like Google Analytics.[14]

As of November 2021, Ecosia users conducted over 10,000 searches every minute.[15]

Business model

Christian Kroll, founder of Ecosia, in 2019

Ecosia uses 80% of its profits (47.1% of its income) from advertising revenue to support tree-planting projects.[16][17][18] In October 2018, founder Christian Kroll announced he had given some of his shares to the Purpose Foundation.[19] As a result, Kroll and Ecosia co-owner Tim Schumacher gave up their right to sell Ecosia or take any profits out of the company.[20][21]

In a May 2021 Handelsblatt article, example figures from March showed revenues of €1,969,440, while the largest expenditure was "trees" at €789,113, ahead of the second-largest expenditure, operating costs, at €543,425. Users entering a keyword in Ecosia essentially see the same results as via Bing, including the ads. When someone clicks on an ad in Ecosia, Microsoft earns money, according to Kroll, but Ecosia gets a large portion of the sales. Kroll told Handelsblatt he's not allowed to reveal the exact percentage. The €789,113 expenditure for March 2021 amounted to 80% of that month's would-be profits.[22]

Cooperation between Ecosia and Microsoft benefits both companies: Microsoft receives income from Ecosia, which presumably takes customers away from Google, and Ecosia can keep its investment in infrastructure small through the use of Bing's existing implementation. In March 2021, the 82-person company spent only €73,000 on servers and software, compared to €381,000 on personnel costs.[22]

In January 2023, Ecosia handled 0.29% of European search requests, behind DuckDuckGo's 0.53%, Bing's 3.65%, and Google's 92.23%.[23]

Investments

In October 2020, Ecosia announced it had bought a 20% stake in the debit card company TreeCard.[24][25] It planned to launch a new debit card in 2021, in partnership with Mastercard.[26] Cards produced by TreeCard are made of British cherry wood instead of the customary plastics found in most other debit cards.[25][26] Ecosia uses 80% of its profits to go to global reforestation projects.[25] In 28 June 2022, Ecosia introduced freetree: a new browser extension that let user plant trees while they shop online. Freetree's commission-based referral program works by giving a small percentage (around 2-3%) of net sales to the referrer when a recommended customer makes a purchase. This commission is processed through the link-o-mat cashback portal technology. The majority of this commission goes directly towards tree planting with Ecosia Reforestation projects, while a small portion is used for the development and operation of freetree as well as marketing efforts to attract more participants.[27][28]

In 2023, Ecosia also set up an incubator for regenerative agriculture, invested into climate tech solutions and diversified their search providers for an improved search experience.

Impact

Map of countries where Ecosia is planting trees as of 2021

The company works with multiple organizations to plant trees in 35 countries throughout the world.[29][30]

By July 2020, Ecosia had surpassed 100 million trees planted in total, resulting in over 50,000 metric tonnes of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere each month. In June 2022 Ecosia had passed 150 million trees planted.[31][32][33][34] It was reported in the same month that Ecosia, on average, was able to fund a tree planting every 0.8 seconds – averaging 75 per minute or 108,000 per day – with the revenue it makes from advertising.[33] In 1 February 2024, Ecosia had planted over 200 million trees.[35]

Ecosia has stressed that it is not only carbon-neutral but carbon-negative. Since 2020, Ecosia uses solar energy to power its servers (running on "200% renewable energy"[3]), each search is said to remove 1 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.[3][36]

Wolfgang Oels, chief operating officer of Ecosia, speaking at the KlimaAfterWork event in 2022

Ecosia has been a certified B Corporation since April 2014.[37][38] The company's B-Impact Score was 113.4 on a scale from 0 to 200, an improvement over 2014 and 2016 scores of around 98.[39] B Lab, the organisation which certifies B Corporations based on areas such as employment, community issues, and the environment, said that as of August 2021: "[In] donating 80 percent of its ad revenue, the search engine has raised almost $3 million for reforestation projects since its founding in December 2009".[39]

An article in Ethical Consumer examined Ecosia and its relation to it search provider, Bing. Giving Ecosia an "Ethiscore" of 11, in contrast to Google (5.5) and Microsoft Bing (6.5), Ethical Consumer found Ecosia to be superior to the other search engine companies it looked at, but marked it down in seven categories for its relationship with Microsoft (the lowest scorer in those categories).[40] Ethical Consumer made a point of clarifying that it's not the actual searches which lead to tree planting, but the click-through of search engine users to the ads, and called for improved transparency concerning its relationship with Microsoft Bing.[40]

Ecosia on Campus

Ecosia on Campus is a global student-led movement that has campaigned for universities to plant trees by switching to Ecosia. Ecosia became the default search engine over 30 campuses, including UWE Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University, Leeds, York, Swansea and Lincoln in the United Kingdom,[15] and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands.[41]

Browser integration

Ecosia is available on Google Chrome,[16] Firefox,[17] Safari,[42] Microsoft Edge,[43] and other browsers as a default search engine by downloading the extension from the Chrome Web Store or Mozilla's Addon site, among others. In Mobile phones, Ecosia has its own chromium based web browser app in Google Play Store and App Store.

As of 26 January 2016, with its version 26 release, the Pale Moon web browser has included Ecosia as its default search engine, as has the Polarity web browser since its 8 release in 15 February 2016.[44] Ecosia also briefly was the default search engine of the Waterfox web browser starting with version 44.0.2.[45] And Vivaldi has included Ecosia as a default search engine option since its version 1.9 release.[46] In March 2018, Firefox 59.0 added Ecosia as a search engine option for the German version.[47][48]

On 12 August 2019, Ecosia announced it would not participate in the "search-choice" auction to appear on Android devices led by Google.[5] This meant that in 2020, European Android phone users did not have the option to set Ecosia as a default search engine. Christian Kroll explained the boycott decision saying, "We're deeply disappointed that Google has decided to exploit its dominant market position in this way. Instead of giving wide and fair access, Google has chosen to give discrimination a different form and make everyone else but themselves pay, which isn't something we can accept".[5]

As of 12 March 2020, Ecosia was included as a default search engine option for Google Chrome in 47 markets, the first time a not-for-profit search engine appeared as a choice to users.[49] On 14 December 2020, Apple's Safari web browser added Ecosia as a search engine option in macOS Big Sur 11.1 and iOS/iPadOS 14.3.[42] On 28 January 2021, Ecosia became an official search engine on the Brave browser as a result of a partnership announced that day by both companies.[50][51]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Ecosia's Financial reports". Ecosia. 22 May 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2023. (The value 35.3M€ for annual revenue in 2023 was obtained by the summation of monthly revenues available in the drop-down list format of monthly blog posts about financial reports of 2023. )
  2. ^ "What is Ecosia?". Ecosia. Retrieved 3 November 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Kelly, Ross (8 April 2021). "How Ecosia is helping tackle climate change, one click at a time". Digit. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  4. ^ "Search Engines Won't Support Google's Auction". PYMNTS.com. What's Next Media and Analytics. 12 August 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b c Oates, John (12 August 2019). "Green search engine Ecosia thinks Google's Android auction stinks, gives bid a hard pass". The Register. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  6. ^ "What is Ecosia? – The search engine that plants trees". Ecosia. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  7. ^ 200 MILLION Trees Planted — a message from Ecosia's founder, retrieved 1 February 2024
  8. ^ Donoghue, Andrew (4 December 2009). "Microsoft-Backed Green Search Engine Attacks Google". Archived from the original on 23 July 2015. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  9. ^ Manisalidis, Ioannis; Stavropoulou, Elisavet; Stavropoulos, Agathangelos; Bezirtzoglou, Eugenia (20 February 2020). "Environmental and Health Impacts of Air Pollution: A Review". Frontiers in Public Health. 8: 14. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2020.00014. ISSN 2296-2565. PMC 7044178. PMID 32154200.
  10. ^ jlo (12 September 2014). "Ecosia: Eine Suchmaschine möchte den Regenwald retten" [A search engine wants to save the rain forest]. Sueddeutsche.de (in German).
  11. ^ Bearne, Suzanne (30 August 2020). "The search engine boss who wants to help us all plant trees". BBC News. Archived from the original on 15 July 2022. Retrieved 15 July 2022.
  12. ^ "How does Ecosia use profits from ad income to finance tree planting?". Ecosia's FAQ. May 2022. Retrieved 21 October 2022.
  13. ^ "Content and privacy changes". Ecosia. 26 September 2023. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  14. ^ "We protect your privacy". info.ecosia.org.
  15. ^ a b Farmbrough, Heather (10 November 2020). "How The World's Largest Green Search Engine Is Fighting Climate Change". Forbes. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  16. ^ a b De Andrado, Mahesh (12 May 2019). "Search online and plant a tree with Ecosia". The Sunday Times Sri Lanka. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Ecosia — The search engine that plants trees 🌱 – Get this Extension for 🦊 Firefox (en-US)". addons.mozilla.org. Retrieved 21 January 2020.
  18. ^ Smith, Adam (27 January 2021). "Green search engine Ecosia partners with pro-privacy Brave browser". The Independent. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  19. ^ Tönnesmann, Jens (24 October 2018). "Good bye, Frau Merkel". Zeit.de (in German). Retrieved 24 October 2018.
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  21. ^ Dean, Grace. "Search engine Ecosia plants trees in exchange for searches. It uses pay-per-click ads to fund projects that positively impact both people and nature". Business Insider. Retrieved 4 August 2021.
  22. ^ a b Holzki, Larissa (11 May 2021). "Suchmaschine Ecosia: Bäume bilanzieren statt Gewinne maximieren" [Ecosia search engine: taking stock of trees instead of maximizing profits]. Handelsblatt (in German). Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  23. ^ "Ranking of Internet search engines in Poland and worldwide for the years 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. - Greenfields EN". 22 December 2022. Retrieved 4 February 2024.
  24. ^ "TreeCard - The wooden debit card that plants trees". treecard.org. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  25. ^ a b c Paul Hill (15 October 2020). "Ecosia will fund tree-planting with spend on wooden debit card". Neowin. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  26. ^ a b Callum Borroughs (15 October 2020). "Here's an exclusive look at the pitch deck a 23-year-old Y Combinator alum used to raise $1 million for ethical bank cards". Business Insider. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  27. ^ "How does freetree work?". freetree. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  28. ^ "Introducing freetree: our new browser extension that lets you plant trees while you shop online". Ecosia. 28 June 2023. Retrieved 8 February 2024.
  29. ^ "Where does Ecosia plant trees?". Ecosia's FAQ. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  30. ^ "Why does Ecosia plant trees?". Ecosia's FAQ. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  31. ^ "Ecosia users have planted 100 million trees: a milestone and a beginning!". The Ecosia Blog. 9 July 2020.
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  36. ^ "How does Ecosia neutralize a search's CO2 emissions?". Zendesk. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  37. ^ "Ecosia GmbH - Certified B Corporation - B Lab Global". www.bcorporation.net. Retrieved 6 October 2023.
  38. ^ Evon, Dan (27 August 2019). "Does Search Engine Ecosia Use Profits to Plant Trees?". Snopes.com.
  39. ^ a b "Ecosia GmbH". bcorporation.net. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  40. ^ a b Owens, Jasmine (4 March 2021). "How ethical is the search engine Ecosia?". Ethical Consumer. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  41. ^ "Ecosia". Green Office. 28 April 2020. Archived from the original on 18 August 2021. Retrieved 18 August 2021.
  42. ^ a b "Ecosia now a default search engine option on iOS, iPadOS, macOS". AppleInsider. 14 December 2020. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  43. ^ "Microsoft Edge Addons". microsoftedge.microsoft.com. Retrieved 26 August 2021.
  44. ^ "Windows – Polarity". Polarity Weebly. Archived from the original on 18 May 2019. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  45. ^ "Help Support Waterfox". Waterfox. Archived from the original on 13 April 2016. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
  46. ^ Nestor, Marius (27 April 2017). "Vivaldi 1.9 Browser Is Out with Ecosia Search Engine to Help Reforest the Planet". Softpedia. Retrieved 31 May 2019.
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  50. ^ "Introducing a better internet: Ecosia is now available on Brave, the privacy browser". 28 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  51. ^ "Ecosia is now an Official Search Engine Option on Brave". 28 January 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.