This tree-planting search engine saw a 1150% increase in downloads after the Amazon rainforest fires


A firefighter works during a wildfire near Robore, Santa Cruz region, eastern Bolivia on August 22, 2019. - Up to now, wildfires in Bolivia have devastated about 745,000 hectares of forests and pasturelands. Neighboring Peru, which contains much of the Amazon basin, announced it was

  • Ecosia, an eco-friendly search engine, says it saw a 1150% increase in daily downloads in one day as people become more aware of the blazing fires currently ripping through the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.
  • Ecosia uses 80% of its profits from search ads to plant millions of trees in Brazil and other emerging economies, and says it has planted 65 million trees to date.
  • CEO Christian Kroll told Business Insider that the non-profit usually sees 20,000 daily downloads on average, but that shot up 1150% to 250,000 on 22 August, as media coverage around the Amazon fires intensified.
  • Kroll said the Ecosia team had “mixed feelings” about the record, because it was driven by environmental tragedy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ecosia, an eco-friendly rival to Google, saw a 1150% increase in daily downloads in one day for its search app and browser extension thanks to rising public concern around the blazes in the Amazon rainforest.

Ecosia looks like a normal search engine, but the company is a non-profit that donates 80% of the revenue it makes from search ads to planting trees.

The decade-old company hasn’t built a search engine from scratch, but relies on a partnership with Microsoft’s search engine Bing to power its search results and display ads.

The firm puts the bulk of its profits behind tree-planting projects in countries such as Brazil, Ethiopia, and Madagascar, and the company says it has planted 65 million trees to date.

Ecosia search engine

Ecosia’s installs spiked on Thursday 22 August, the company said, coinciding with an explosion in international media coverage of and social media outrage over the Amazon rainforest fires.

The company told Business Insider that it normally sees around 20,000 downloads of its app and browser extensions per day, on average.

That spiked to 250,000 on Thursday. The firm said if it continues that kind of install rate, it will have 1 million downloads in August alone.

Christian Kroll, Ecosia’s chief executive, told Business Insider: “We had our team meeting and people were, on the one side, very happy because of the numbers but also very sad because of the forest fires. So it’s both exciting and a tragic occurrence.” Ecosia’s team, he added, has a number of Brazilian staffers.

Ecosia Brazil

He said Ecosia became the top-ranked iOS app in Brazil on Thursday, and has ranked highly in a number of other markets globally.

Users voicing their concern on social media is partly responsible for the uptick in Ecosia’s downloads. Business Insider found Instagram users encouraging their friends to download the app in response to the rainforest fires, and the app is prominently mentioned by users on Twitter alongside the #PrayforAmazonia hashtag.

Brazil’s space research centre INPE has detected some 72,843 fires in the Amazon rainforest so far this year, up 83% from 2018. The fires have covered parts of the Amazon region, including major cities, in thick, black smoke. On Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron described the fires as an “international crisis.”

Kroll founded Ecosia in 2009, after travelling in Nepal and South America and learning about ongoing devastation to the natural environment.

Originally a business student with an interest in tinkering with computers, he turned into an environmentalist. “I didn’t really know about climate change, nor about many of the issues that are caused by globalization but after living there, I decided I wanted to do something that helps people,” he said. “In my opinion, planting trees helps people and the environment at the same time.”

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