For my Monday article about how profits from sales of .io domains go to the UK – which kicked the Chagossian people off the islands that “.io” represents — I approached a Belgian startup called Seats.io for its take on the matter. The firm said it didn’t see .io as a geographical indicator, but on Wednesday it followed up with a blog post in which it explained itself and promised to help the Chagossians.
Hearteningly, the “seating as a service” service said that, while it won’t be changing its domain name, it will match any future renewal fees with a donation to a “Chagossian non-profit organization or cause” – the first one it’s donated to is an awareness-raising crowdfunding campaign for the Chagos Islands football team.
I personally think this is a great response. I was careful in my original article not to dictate what I thought the correct response would be, because these kinds of ethical decisions are quite personal. The information about where .io profits go also wasn’t public before – which is why I wrote the article – and those who have already bought a .io address have obviously made a branding investment. And, as Seats.io CEO Ben Verbeken said in Wednesday’s post, the company can’t un-purchase that address.
But they can help the Chagossians if they feel strongly about the issue, now that they know about it. As Verbeken wrote: “We still like the .io domain for its geek-factor, but we do understand it comes with social responsibility. And we hope that the Chagos Islands soccer team reaches its funding goal, perhaps even with support of other .io tech startups.”
UPDATE (11 July): Bounce.io has announced a similar move and will also be donating to the Let Us Return campaign.