Four of Australia's largest internet companies have pooled together $1 million worth of resources to set up a website not expected to make any money.
Located at http://www.takethenextstep.com, the site serves as an environmental education portal designed to encourage web users to join Greenpeace, WWF, Clean Up Australia and other environmental groups.
According to the nonprofit site's founder and voluntary project manager, Mark Braithwaite, Take the Next Step has attracted close to one million hits and has been responsible for 250 Australian sign-ups with environmental organisations since its launch two weeks ago.
However, the ambitions of the site are far greater. Braithwaite outlined a two-year goal for the site to generate one million memberships, including 20,000 memberships from Australia. The mission of the website is to "convince the 200 million worldwide internet users that the environment is their responsibility", he said.
According to Braithwaite, the site's ongoing development will be provided by Sausage Software, with online procurement for donations and memberships to be handled by St George Bank. DoubleClick will provide traffic monitoring services and UUNet will host the site. The services of these companies is valued at $1 million, but Braithwaite stressed that the contributing companies did not ask for any payment whatsoever.
"It's not about money. It's not about research and development," he said. "The big challenge for mankind in the future is survival."
Braithwaite said democratic governments worldwide are unable to adequately support environmental awareness because of most voters' lack of interest. "Governments do what they need to do to get votes. Their hands are tied."
Instead of governments, Braithwaite placed the majority of environmental responsibility in the hands of large corporates, which he said had sufficient resources to support initiatives such as this without requiring the widespread approval of the population.
Braithwaite believes Take the Next Step is the only website of its kind in the world. "Australia's providing a global lead for dot-com philanthropy," he said. "Everyone else is still obsessed with getting rich quickly."