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Nominet, the UK’s (non-profit) governing body for domain names, announced proposals last month for a .uk extension for domain names. 

Nominet claims this will 'support the economic growth of the UK internet', but this view isn't shared by many digital professionals, who see it as more of a shakedown which could cost UK business £50m per year.

As 93% of all UK domain names use .co.uk, this has significant implications for the UK's digital economy. 

Nominet's proposal

Nominet says: 

To further support the economic growth of the UK internet, we are holding a three month consultation about the potential introduction of a new service known as direct.uk, which would be specifically designed for businesses that are or want to get online, with a new shorter domain name of internet.uk rather than internet.co.uk.

Much is made of the extra security which will verify that every applicant for a domain is from the UK, will monitor the new domains for malicious software on a daily basis, and will add a digital signature to prevent names being hijacked. 

These security measures would be supported by a trustmark to give consumers a clear sign that it was a verified domain name. 

Arguments for .uk

Here are a few pros from Edwin Hayward's site

  • Simple and logical, easy to remember.
  • Gives a stronger sense of national identity
  • Puts the UK on a par with other countries.
  • Makes more domain names available.
  • Allows people to register desirable names that they missed out on previously.

As mentioned above, Nominet has been talking up the advantages of the new domains in terms of security, quoting the figure of £27bn, which is what it says cybercrime costs the UK each year.

However, as E-commerce consultant Dan Barker points out: 

If you read the report that £27bn figure comes from, you see the vast bulk of that money is actually from espionage and intellectual property theft (specifically pharmaceutical, chemical, electronic, and software IP theft). ie. it's unlikely their security features would graze that £27 billion figure, let alone put any sort of dent in it.

According to independent marketing consultant Paul Gailey: 

Nominet claims the action is about offering UK business greater choice for shorter domain names and a technically more secure setup whilst bringing the domain inline with other international standards.

Brevity in branding is a conceivable advantage by adopting .uk and I note talk of the advantages of an accompanying official trustmark being lauded but I am sceptical of the exercise achieving an overall net positive impact on internet users as claimed.

Historically the proliferation of TLD's has followed similar patterns of business resistance to greater costs and maintenance of domain registration, branding and trademark uncertainty and ultimately consumer indifference to a new domain suffix. Even with global consortium backed initiatives to support .mobi for example, the domain has not become a cultural norm. And therein lies the folly of this sales-led project. Old habits die hard.

The real uncertainty for UK business is the risk of inaction if this change comes into force and drawing the line on obtaining all variants of available domains and usernames. Let the debate ensue.

Problems with the proposal

The cost for UK businesses

As a business with an established .co.uk domain, you simply can't afford not to acquire the .uk equivalent. If not, you run the risk of your existing domain being diluted by the shiny new .uk versions, or being exploited by competitors and others wanting to divert some of your brand traffic. 

According to Edwin Hayward, the changes will cost UK businesses £50m. This figure doesn't take into account additional expenses which will be incurred. 

These extra expenses include changing all of the stationery, brand costs, PPC changes costs, possible SEO implications, technical costs, and renewals of ".co.uk" and ".uk" domain names each year.

As Dan Barker points out, 'it's quite sad to think of the amount of money it would cost UK business, with no real upside'. He has has come up with some 'back of the envelope' figures on the potential costs for UK businesses in employee time. 

To illustrate that point, here is a 'back of an envelope' look at the amount this will cost UK business in employee time alone. Dan has 'lowballed' this at every step.

  • At the start of 2012 there were 4.8 million businesses in the UK.
  • Let's say that 20% of those own a domain name. (that's 960,000. Again, we'll pretend they only have one domain name each).
  • And let's lowball again and say that an hour of time in one of those businesses at a 'decision maker' level costs £25.

Let's look at what each of those 960,000 businesses would have to go through in order to understand and buy one of these domain names:

  • Research what the whole ".uk" thing is all about. (30 mins)
  • Decide whether it's worth it. (30 mins)
  • Write up a proposal to buy it. (90 mins)
  • Understand the process for buying it. (60 mins).
  • Go through the process of trying to purchase it. (60 mins)
  • That's 4.5 hours in total.

Based on our lowball estimate of £25 for an hour of 'decision maker' time, that's: £108,000,000. 

That's a lot of expense for no real gain. Also, as Dan points out, this doesn't include the domain registration fee, or the cost of acquiring it at auction, as well as the amount of money those employees could have made doing other things.

The tricky task of acquiring your brand's .uk domain

This is the really odd part. You might think, since a retailer or brand has an already established .co.uk domain, they should get first dibs on the .uk version. But no, this isn't what Nominet are proposing. 

According to Edwin at mydomainnames.co.uk: 

Existing domain owners will have to prove that they are entitled to the matching .uk domain name, or buy it at auction (if it hasn’t already been taken by a trademark holder).

Here's a list of generic domain name holders who stand to lose out from the proposals, including Barclays and Kellogs. 

Price rises

In addition to the other costs outlined above, a .uk domain will cost £20 per year, a big rise on the £2.50 per year for a .co.uk.

If you just have one domain, this extra cost, though unwelcome, may not make much of a dent in your finances. However, if companies (and many do) have multiple domains registered, these costs will escalate. 

The effects on .co.uk domains

Dan Barker: 

I like Nominet, I am a customer of theirs, and I think they do lots and lots of good. But I'm not keen on this. There are lots of obvious risks around ".co.uk" domains suddenly becoming less valuable or less trusted, around people setting up things like ".tv.uk" or perhaps ".vc.uk" for voucher codes, and then reusing [yourbrand].vc.uk, etc.

Who benefits from this? 

For businesses, it seems that they will potentially occur a lot of extra costs for very little benefit. So why, if Nominet wants to support the growth of the UK internet, is it doing this? 

Edwin Hayward has a few theories of why Nominet has proposed the .uk domain: 

For money and power, and because it's the last chance they have before new GTLD come in. This will make £50m+ per year in extra registration fees, and potentially hundreds of millions in auction revenues. 

The winners from this are Nominet, registrars, and trademark holders, while the losers are existing .co.uk registrants, UK businesses, the credibility of .co.uk namespace, and trust in .co.uk. 

In fact, a similar proposal was put forward in 2005 (quietly to the Policy Advisory Board, not to the public) and was voted down 11-0. This PAB board was abolished in 2010, and now Nominet 'oversight' is from Nominet Members, who are mainly registrars. Of course they love .uk, a new, premium product to sell to their customer base. It's like farmers voting for Xmas without asking the turkeys. 

Nick Patemen echoes this view on business2community.com:

Of the 9 decision makers for this proposal, 4 of them come from backgrounds with a vested interest in the outcome.

What can you do about it? 

We are still in a consultation period, so there is a chance that the proposals could be rejected. Nominet has a (very long) feedback form which enables you to give your opinions on the proposal.

As Edwin says, it can take a good 90 minutes to complete, but if you feel strongly about the proposals, it's worth spending the time. 

In summary

While I can see the possible benefits of shorter domain names, the security argument doesn't hold much water to me. As Dan Barker points out, the extra measures proposed for .uk domains will barely make a dent in the £27bn costs of online crime.

In addition, if security is such an issue for Nominet, why not add these extra security measures for existing .co.uk domains? 

For the UK's online businesses, it seems they are open to millions in extra costs with no conceivable advantage. They will be forced to grab the .uk equivalents of their domains, just to guard against the threat from third parties picking them up. 

There is the £50m estimate, there are further costs in staff time, acquiring .uk domains via auctions, changing stationary, possible SEO issues and more. At a time of economic uncertainty, this is more than unwelcome. 

The only clear beneficiaries of the new .uk domains are the domain registration and related companies, who stand to profit from selling the new domains. 

It seems that the UK's online businesses are being asked to fork out £50m+ for no real gain. 

What are your views on Nominet's proposals? Please let us know below, and vote in our Twtpoll.

Graham Charlton

Published 22 November, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (33)

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The Security features could be extended now to existing .uk domain names.
Indeed, if this proposal goes ahead, holders of .co.uk domains will be left holding second-class domain names.
Their websites may be perceived as INsecure due to their NOT being direct.uk.
They may well not have been able to secure a matching .uk due to registered trademark holders getting first dibs, or being priced out of an auction.

almost 4 years ago


Adam Beizsley-Pycroft

I'm sick of the oligarchic cartel of Nominet and ICANN's stranglehold on our internet. Their profiteering has lead to the introduction on multiple, unnecessary GTLDs and TLDs to the cost and detriment of global business. If Nominet had a shred of decency they'd introduce .uk as replacement for .co.uk with .co.uk domains redirecting to the new .uk version.

Ultimately, with my UX hat on I'm against the concept of anything but the most basic .com / .uk / .org /.gov domains as users find it difficult enough to input the correct URL as evidenced by analytics data showing that many people type the URL in the Google search box rather than the address bar.

almost 4 years ago



One of the best marketing strategy today is the use of social media. The popularity of this sites had gone to the top and advertising and promoting your site in tons of members will be a great help for you..

almost 4 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Oh, I so hope this doesn't see the light of day. We just don't need another extension for the UK. Unnecessary cost and confusion.

almost 4 years ago


Liam O'Leary

More choice for customers can only be a good thing. Businesses don't NEED to buy the .uk but if they do then what's the problem, it's a ting expense for a valuable piece of Internet real estate.

almost 4 years ago

Adrian Bold

Adrian Bold, Director at Bold Internet Ltd

Most will need to buy if only to protect their brand and existing site on the co.uk or .com extension.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Potter

Ben Potter, Director at Ben Potter - new business mentor

I can't help but feel Nominet is trying to create a problem that really doesn't exist.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Liam I don't think it offers much extra for consumers.

The thing is, businesses do need to buy the .uk. If they don't, they risk losing out in search, or someone else taking the .uk for their brand, stealing their traffic or, worse, using a .uk version of a well-known domain for phishing.

almost 4 years ago

Jonathan Kay

Jonathan Kay, Managing Director at 120 Feet

+1 for Adam BP's comment.

almost 4 years ago



Unfortunately your twtpoll is now closed.

A further poll perhaps asking an alternative question such as "Will the direct.uk service as proposed by Nominet benefit their Business & Organisation Stakeholders ie the likely 4 million + existing .co.uk (& .org.uk, .net,uk) domain owners?"

almost 4 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

I think it would be nice to have a .uk, but it's too late or the wrong time to launch such a domain. The cost is going to be a lot for businesses to change if they want to. I wish we'd had .uk long before now, although coc.uk is now familiar with most consumers a simplified .uk would have been better from the 'old days'

We've reached a point now where consumers become so familiar with online brands and common domain extensions (.com and .co.uk) that having a separate .uk will be confusing. If they want to switch then perhaps a free redirect to the .uk version from .co.uk is a decent option as Adam suggested.

Whatever happens, people will be forced to buy them for their brands, as with all the other extensions being released.

almost 4 years ago

James Docherty

James Docherty, Consultant at ePro

Dreadful idea. I don't know the personalities involved at Nominet but I get the feeling it's people making work for themselves (justifying their own existence?). It's likely to create more confusion in the mind of the user and open up more security risk due to 'mistaken' identity. I suspect the vast majority of .uk domains that would be registered would simply point to the existing .co.uk domain thus making the whole thing redundant.
As Adrian Bold said, I too hope this doesn't see the light of day.

almost 4 years ago


Chris Smith, CEO at The Information I Ltd / I.co.uk

Unfortunately your twtpoll has ended. It would be interesting to see if an alternative question such as - Do you think the Nominet direct.uk proposals benefit their 4 million business/organisation stakeholders who own .co.uk (&.org.uk + .net.uk) domains?

almost 4 years ago

James Docherty

James Docherty, Consultant at ePro

I just completed the survey at the link in the post. It took me about 15mins but I'm a slow typist and I wrote quite a lot. Please spend 15mins to make your voice heard - the more I think about this, the worse the idea seems!

almost 4 years ago


Adam BP

@Liam O'Leary - Using your analogy about a valuable piece of real estate imagine buying a house where what it's worth is determined by the view. When you bought it there was a reasonable expectation that it would maintain that value. Nominet's proposal is the equivalent of building a coal fired power station directly in front of that house.

Businesses have invested money in .co.uk domains with them being promoted as the premier UK top level domains. By creating something which will be perceived as more valuable Nominet are reneging on the premise that the domains were sold on.

My company uses a .co.uk domain, primarily because we're UK based but also because the .com is currently owned by a speculator who doesn't use it for anything. What's to stop the same person grabbing the .uk too? If .uk domains launch and become the default in the public's consciousness the only winners will be cyber squatters.

almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

For those who may not be up to speed with the tech Security issues, here is what I wrote in the first box on page H 'Security':
It is not necessary to create a new .UK name space, to do this new monitoring/ Trustmark/suspension process.

It is known that consumer browsing is such that they DO NOT LOOK at the raw URL of the page they are on.
So malicious sites will continue to register on .co.uk or elsewhere but use (without permission) the new TrustMark logo - and the bulk of consumers will be no better off, because they don't check the URL of the site they are on so will not know that the Trustmark is of no value!

Therefore - the main part of the proposal (Trustmark service with automated suspension for unresolved malware: for those who sign up to it) - could be done just as well, without creating a new domain for it.

Indeed - one option would be to change the terms of Nominet such that over a period of say 2 years all existing domains (.co.uk .org.uk etc) move to this basis.
Why is this option not on the table?

That would provide a greater benefit to the UK consumer - as all sites would end up improving their security game across the whole of .uk namespace
And in Box 3 on Page H 'DNNSEC'
This is a good thing for security. But why leave .co.uk / .org.uk etc unsecured: it would make sense to move all these domains to enforced DNSSec over a period of say 2 years.
That would provide a greater benefit to the UK consumer: they would know that any .UK address has extra secuity

almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

To Page H - Box 1b: which asks how long should a site have detected malware before it is suspended: I wrote:

This is a poorly worded question - it does not make clear whether it is working days or what.

EG, would 48 hours mean a site would be suspended Monday at 8am if malware was detected at 8am Saturday ?

almost 4 years ago


Brandt Dainow, Director at ThinkMetrics

Why do we bother with domain extensions? I've never understood it. Why not allow people to use any text they like? We're way beyond the days when the tech needed these extensions for routing purposes, which is all they were ever intended for. Do we really think people pay any attention to the extension, or understand what it means? The only reason I can see for the system is habit and the captured market it creates in each domain, allowing national governments and profit-making companies to control or exploit us.

almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Their proposals for validating the UK-ness of a registrant through a postal address etc: is entirely flawed !

To save anyone who is short of time... this may be a good basis to respond at section: "I. Verification of registrant UK contact details"

At box 4. Weirdly, box 5a is the virtually the same question...

Although it is a nice ideal to provide extra UK-based checking - this process is fraught with difficulty.

The document says: "We also note that any registrant criteria of UK presence would require significant and costly monitoring and validation processes, and as such would not be suitable for all types of registrants and domain names."

This validation process is indeed costly, and in fact is impossible to do without significant loop holes.

Firstly - UK phone numbers:
: are so cheap to set up for organisations with no UK presence - Skype offer a service that provides them very cheaply, as do very many telecom providers: it is the nature of VOIP technology that makes this very cheap.

Secondly - UK postal address:
again there are very many 'mailing address' providers in the UK, who do this for £10/mnth and less. Once it is known to these providers that Nominet require a UK postal address, they are likely to start promoting themselves as being help in providing this service to overseas registrants: a new market will develop in 3rd parties providing the admin for this.
So within 12 months, the validation of postal address will no longer prevent savvy malicious organisations from outside the UK, obtaining Nominet approval and the trust mark - and going on to defraud visitors to their site!

Take the example of the official UK body that registers companies in the UK - Companies House - they make no effort to exclude companies that use the address of a mailing-address provider - they make no effort to prove or disprove whether a company has a true UK presence or not. They allow domestic properties to be used.

Indeed they explicitly state that a PO Box address is sufficient!

So if Companies House don't do it - why does Nominet think it will be able to!

For the reasons above, this proposed validation is a smoke-screen and provides no genuine assurance as to the bone fide of a registrant.

almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

"J. Third level sub-domains"

Here's a good place in the form to flag up the dilution that all existing domain owners will have.

I make the point that the owners of the current top-level name spaces (like police.uk and nhs.uk) will be diluted down too -to the confusion of the public.

Maybe this argument is more powerful to the committee if made on behalf of existing governmental domain owners, than on behalf of 'mere' commercial concerns ?!

I wrote:
This issue only comes about because of the creation of the new name space that is confusingly 'in parallel' with the existing .co, .gov, .nhs, .police and .org etc prefixes.

All those existing name spaces are diluted and downgraded by this new proposal.

Imagine how for example the police's websites will be undermined by the thousands of variants of 'police.uk' that will spring up:
- kent-police.uk
- met-police.uk
- recruitment-police.uk
etc: and all these will appear to the site visitor who bothers to take the time to look at the URL, as being on an equal footing to the true police.uk


almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk


> Why not allow people to use any text they like? We're way beyond the days when the tech needed these extensions for routing purposes, which is all they were ever intended for. Do we really think people pay any attention to the extension, or understand what it means?

Come on Brandt - you think consumers wouldn't notice if your website says 'email us at support@no10downingstreet'


You're right that consumers don't tend to notice the doamin in the URL line in the browser.

But a free for all might allow malicious parties to more easily fool the public:

"We're one of the best pay-day loan companies, see our Domain Name: 'govt-approved-pay-day'

almost 4 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

Nominet are mising 3 things together, seems to me:

1) security measures - malware moniotirng + suspension: DNNSec

Those are all good things and ought to be rolled out to all of .co,uk, .org.uk, .ac.uk and etc, across the whole existing name spaces

2) Validating organisations as really being in the UK.

This is impossible to achieve - Skype offers UK tel numbers for a few pounds, 'mailing address' providers offer postal addresses in London for £10/month or less. Malicious registrants from oversaess, will use these to get round Nominet rules

3) A new name space .uk:

Which introduces confusion as it parallels the existing ones. And will force those with domains elsewhere to buy new ones:

This will mean organisations with .co.uk or .org.uk or .ac.uk and etc will all be forced to pile in !

almost 4 years ago


Taras Young, Digital Content Manager at Arts Marketing Association

Another costly and confusing idea - I really hope this never goes through.

I agree it would be much better if anyone with a .co.uk was automatically granted the .uk, to start a sort of phased switchover.

But that's probably far too sensible for Nominet!

almost 4 years ago



Deri and others are correct, the proposed so-called "security" measures ought to apply to existing .xxx.uk domain names. But actually those particular measures would not have had an impact on any of the recent headline website security breaches of confidentiality and compliance. For those, avoiding vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, missing authentication, missing authorisation, use of insecure protocols and unpatched software would have prevented successful attacks.

Security needs to be considered throughout the development and operation of websites and other online applications. For example in specification, design, coding, testing, deployment and operation. The effort needs to be appropriate for the level of risk.

More suggestions (free, no registration) from OWASP in the Open Software Assurance Maturity Model (SAMM) at http://www.opensamm.org/

almost 4 years ago

Daniel McClure

Daniel McClure, B2B Digital Marketing at PayPal

This does feel very unnecessary and lets be straight here. Anyone who "missed out" on a great .co.uk is still going to have exactly the same issues, or end up having to justify why they've purchased an almost identical domain to one held by an existing company. The only completely "secure and trusted" domains these days are reserved for various governments and even those are due to an extremely limited pool of users and still aren't considered bulletproof.

Like others have said before me, whilst this might have made sense many years ago, the .co.uk is firmly set in the mind of consumers, many of which who will still insist on using a search engine as an entry point which could cause even more troubles for businesses stuck tring to secure their new domains ranking in a time where many experts are trying to proclaim SEO a dead art.

Will businesses buy them though?

Yes. That is the only reason this can and probably will go through regardless of any arguments put forward.

almost 4 years ago


Alexander Croucher

I'd be really disappointed if, as stated in the article, me or one of my colleagues took 90 minutes to write a proposal for the purchase of a domain name that will probably cost under £10.

I'd be even more disappointed if it took them 2 more hours to actually purchase it.

almost 4 years ago


Chris Smith, CEO at The Information I Ltd / I.co.uk

We think the 90 minutes is an exaggeration (if Nominet's online form is used).

Especially so if you are a "single issue" respondent and simply want to submit your details and say NO to question 8a on the preferential rights for Registered Trademark holders.

We've (I.co.uk)devised a simplistic set of instructions as well and an ad/logo of "no no minet no direct.uk"

almost 4 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

@Alex Croucher: It's worth reading the consultation doc. If you do so, you'll see the estimated price is 'sub £20' (actually think it mentions that in the article above), and that it's not a bog-standard purchase process: there's an auction element under some circumstances, the initial sunrise phase is tied to trademark, there are 3 other phases in the release of domains.

I was involved in a piece of research a few years ago looking at the processes a few hundred businesses went through to purchase a new printer. At the end of it, the finding was that the mean amount of time to purchase was 7 hours. I thought that was utter madness, but going through all of the detail it was clear it was about right.

As you're very familiar with the web, domain names, etc, & still seem to have missed some of the basic points someone would have to get their head around, your comment seems to back up the idea that it would take the average business person a few hours to figure it all out & have any chance of securing their domain.

@Chris Smith: Great idea.

Some great comments here.


almost 4 years ago


Steven M

Remember UK trademark holders will be forced into battle with Australian Trademark holders or Canadian TM holders.

Nominet have admitted TM holders from any numbers of countries who acknowledged each others marks will have rights.

So UK TM holders will still have to go to auction in a lot of cases....

almost 4 years ago


Bob Chat, Bo at Netd

The domains ".uk.com" are nice domain but It is high cost.

almost 4 years ago

Dj Maria

Dj Maria, Design at Friv

I was involved in a piece of research a few years ago looking at the processes a few hundred businesses went through to purchase a new printer. At the end of it, the finding was that the mean amount of time to purchase was 7 hours. I thought that was utter madness, but going through all of the detail it was clear it was about right.

over 3 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd

Do spare a thought for Scottish based companies who use .co.uk

If the independence referendum vote goes in favour of the SNP then Scots businesses may be faced with having to buy into the .scot registry which may come into effect as early as 2015, so even more cost to business and the question about what happens to our use of .co.uk's in the longer term?

The first mention this gets is in this blog article posted : http://www.edinburghdesignconsultancy.co.uk/?p=227

Nominet have still to respond to this, but it was only posted yesterday.

about 3 years ago

Kieren Trinder

Kieren Trinder, Owner at Freshly Blended

Whilst it's handy to have an extra suffix for those 'damn, it's taken' moments, just look at the uptake of some of the others - I've visited a .biz address just once. As said by some of the others, it's make-work to justify their own existence.

Think about how it's going to look if this continues - .co.uk and .com are well known, but imagine endless, multiple suffix's. It all gets in the way of branding and getting your site known.

over 2 years ago

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