When Seats.io realised their .io domain name was associated with the British Indian Ocean Territory, the official name of the homeland of forcibly deported Chagossians, they knew they “had to do something.”
Since, they have pro-actively supported the fight for Chagossian return home and control over the domain name of their homeland, as our article earlier demonstrates.
We got in touch with Seats.io’s “Chief Everything Officer” Ben Verbeken to discuss how and why he got involved in the campaign. We also spoke about an exciting new project, thedarksideof.io which will encourage other companies using .io to back the Chagossian fight for justice. Read what he had to say below.
UKChSA: In layman’s terms, can you explain what your start-up company, seats.io, does?
Ben: Seats.io is a floor plan plugin for ticket selling websites, that allows ticket buyers to select their specific spot on an interactive floor plan.
Our main focus is to make it easy for non-techies to draw interactive seating charts, a job that’s usually reserved for software developers and digital designers.
“It’s like something from the middle ages, not the early seventies” Ben on the horror of Chagossians forced deportation from their homes
What is the appeal of the .io TLD for businesses in your sector and more generally?
The cool thing about .io domain names is that they’re fairly available and cheap; it is much easier and cheaper to get seats.io than seats.com for instance. Since we’re running our company as a bootstrapped startup (i.e. without funding), every penny counts, so a cheap domain name comes in handy.
Another reason for many technological and software services to adopt an .io domain name is that IO is an abbreviation for input/output. An .io domain name made sense for us from that angle as well.
Not many people know about the shameful history of the UK’s involvement in the history Chagossian people-were you aware of the links of .io to the plight of the Chagossian people?
We absolutely did not know. If we would have known, we would have chosen a different name.
It was David Meyer from Gigaom.com who informed us, when writing his article about the dark side of the .io TLD (https://gigaom.com/2014/06/30/the-dark-side-of-io-how-the-u-k-is-making-web-domain-profits-from-a-shady-cold-war-land-deal/)
“.io should come under the control of the Chagossian people. But in the meantime there’s a lot we can do-we’ll be launching thedarksideof.io soon”
What was your reaction when you found it? Did any part of the story strike you as especially powerful?
To be honest, we were in a pickle. On one hand, we liked our name and domain name a lot, because it was short, meaningful, cheap, simple.
But of course we couldn’t just turn a blind eye either, having heard of the shocking tactics that were used to drive the Chagossian people away. Rounding up all the pet dogs and have them killed are things you’d expect to have happened in the Middle Ages, not in the early ’70s.
Seats.io have kindly committed to supporting Chagossian groups and causes, including ourselves, in order to fight for justice-what motivated you to do this?
When we learned about this story, we had two choices. We could give up our domain name, change our business name.
But by doing that we would be running away from the problem. So instead, we decided to take up social responsibility and actually help the Chagossian people a bit: we made a promise (http://blog.seats.io/post/90546138934/lightening-up-the-dark-side-of-io-a-bit) to donate to the Chagossian cause, every time we’d renew our .io domain name.
You’ve been kind enough to support our work with a donation. What would you encourage other companies and start ups using an .io TLD to do to show solidarity with the Chagossian people?
Ideally, the .io TLD (Top-Level Domain Name) should come under the control of the Chagossian people. But until that happens, there’s many of other things we can do.
There are many other startups and companies out there that bought their .io domain name for the same reasons I mentioned before, without being aware of the story of the Chagossian people. We would like to call on all those startups to join us and make a promise: donate the cost of your .io to the Chagossian people. It’s only a small donation, it could make a huge difference.
We are working to launch thedarksideof.io soon, a website where .io startups can register their pledge and learn more about the terrible suffering underwent by the Chagossian people and their fight to return home.