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Ecosia – is it legit?

The world currently faces multiple crises at once, including the war in Ukraine, the corona pandemic and climate change – often referred to as climate crisis to give a fairer account of the dimension of the problem. The latter crisis still is not adequately addressed by politics, companies and other players despite the scientific findings highlighting the urgent need for action against climate change.

One source using huge amounts of energy is the internet search by billions of people. Google has a market share of 95% worldwide, helping Google’s mother company Alphabet to be the fourth most valued company in the world. A new search engine player emerged in 2009 when Ecosia was founded. Ecosia uses its profits for planting trees to fight climate change. But besides a lot of praise, the new search engine also gets critiqued. Ecosia uses Microsoft service Bing and its search results for themselves, resulting in a dependence on the world’s second most valued company Microsoft, raising the question:

Why even bother using Ecosia when you can just use Bing directly?

Ecosia is often criticised for its dependence on the Microsoft search engine Bing. They depend on Bing’s search result quality, and Bing also plays out Ads for Ecosia. The provided search results are not as good as the ones from Google users say, resulting in the dominance of Google in the search engine market.

While it is true that Bing’s search results are not as good as Google’s results, Microsoft is constantly working on its algorithm to catch up to Google. It is rumoured that the artificial intelligence ChatGPT Microsoft is heavily invested in could help them close the gap with Google by being built into Microsoft’s services. Also, Ecosia is transparent when it comes towards privacy and its collaboration with Microsoft.

Another point of criticism is that Microsoft is not sustainable yet. Microsoft is aiming to be carbon negative until 2030 and wants to remove all historical carbon emissions until 2050. This can be criticised as too late, but it is also hard to find alternatives to Bing as Ecosia. They cannot build a search engine by themselves as it would need thousands of new employees, costing a fortune and resulting in less money for the planet because Ecosia has to use the money for operations.

What if Microsoft just ends the cooperation? Ecosia will not have a partner then.

The cooperation of Microsoft and Ecosia is concluded with 2-year contracts. This gives Ecosia time to search for another partner. Microsoft ending the work with Ecosia also is unlikely, as Ecosia is Microsoft’s biggest search engine partner in Europe. Additionally, Ecosia helps them reach a younger audience – important for advertising partners.

Considering the positive effects of Ecosia planting trees and investing their profit for the planet, it is clear that using Ecosia is superior to using Bing directly or Google when it comes to sustainability. It is not that you are choosing Ecosia working with Bing over Google, but you are choosing planting trees and helping combat climate change over not doing anything.

by Manuel Janz

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