Ecosia is a web search engine based in Berlin, Germany, which donates 80% of its surplus income to non-profit conservationist organizations, with a focus on tree planting. As a "social business", Ecosia is CO2-neutral and supports full financial transparency, and is certified by B-Lab as a benefit corporation.
Ecosia's search results are powered by Bing and Ecosia's own search algorithms. Ecosia shows advertisements next to its search results, and are paid by their partners at Bing for every click on a sponsored link for having directed users to their advertisers. The payment from the advertisements vary depending on the competition on the keyword and the value of what is being advertised. Some search terms, like "credit", "bank account", "bitcoin", or "solar panel" comes with more lucrative ads than (for example), the search terms "chocolate" or "sticky notes". According to Ecosia, this is due to the fact that, for example, solar panels tend to be more expensive than chocolate and a bank account will be lucrative for the provider for a longer time.
Considering that not every Ecosia user clicks on an ad every time they search, Ecosia states that on average a search raises around half a Euro cent (0.005 EUR). It takes 45 searches on average to fund the planting of a single tree. Additionally, the company also assures that there are also algorithms active, which are designed to detect fake and random advertisement clicks made by users and invalidate them. The number of trees planted by the company is visible below the search bar.
Ecosia also raises funds through its second product EcoLinks, a Browser Extension that allows users to donate for free to Ecosia through their online purchases. Operators of online shops pay a commission to Ecosia (usually a rate between 2 to 10%) if a user lands on their shop through clicking on an EcoLink and purchases an item or any service.
Ecosia supports country-based country filtering but does not support the displaying of worldwide information as of July 2016.
In September 2009, Ecosia received $21,500 in seed capital, and the search engine launched on 7 December 2009, to coincide with UN climate talks in Copenhagen. Over time, Ecosia has donated to different tree-planting programs. Until December 2010 Ecosia’s donations went to a program by WWF Germany that protected the Juruena National Park in the Amazon basin. In order to make sure the protection was kept up, the program also drew up and financed plans with timber companies and the local communities.
Between December 2009 and August 2013, Ecosia donated to the Plant a Billion Trees program run by the Nature Conservancy, which the program aimed to restore the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by planting one billion native trees by 2015. By 2011, the search engine had raised over €250,000. In 2013, about 200,000 people were using Ecosia, and 116,000 seedlings had been funded by Ecosia's donations.
In spring 2013 Ecosia announced an improvement of its donation model as well as the quality of the search results. However, due to technical difficulties, the company temporarily had to use a feed subject to charges. At the same time, an Ecolink partner had suddenly terminated their partnership. As a result Ecosia made an agreement with WWF whereby donations from November 2012 until February 2013 were restricted to 20,000 Euros per month. Once the financial bottleneck had been overcome, the normal donation model was immediately restored.
With a relaunch of the search engine on December 14, 2013 came the switch to a new reforestation program by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The switch signified a slight change of paradigm since the company was no longer protecting forested areas but rather financing a reforestation program. TNC's program "Plant a Billion Trees" aimed at reforesting the Mata Atlântica, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil.
According to B-labs, as of January 2015, "In donating 80 percent of its ad revenue, the search engine has raised over $1.5 million for rainforest protection since its founding in December 2009." According to Ecosia, by 2015, the search engine had almost 2.5 million active users, and searches through it had resulted in more than 2 million trees being planted.
In May 2015, Ecosia was shortlisted for The Europas, the European Tech Startups Awards, under the category Best European Startup Aimed At Improving Society.
As of 27 April 2016, Ecosia ranks in the top 2 start-up for Germany in the StartupRanking. Ecosia reached the milestone of 5 million trees planted on 7 September 2016, 10 million on 29 July 2017 and over 5.5 million active users, and 15 million on October 16 2017 and 17.5 million on 4th December 2017 and over 7 million active users on 10th December 2017. 21 million trees planted as of 24th February 2018.
With the first release on July 21, 2017, Brave web browser features Ecosia as one of its default search engines. With the release of version 26 (on January 26, 2016), the Pale Moon web browser adds Ecosia as one of the default search engines. As of version 8 (on February 15, 2016), Polarity web browser switched to Ecosia as its default search engine. Since version 44.0.2, Ecosia is the default search engine of the Waterfox web browser. Since version 1.9, Vivaldi browser includes Ecosia as a default search engine option. Since version 59.0, Firefox includes Ecosia as a search engine option for German Firefox.