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Nobody outside of the organisation seems to think this is a good idea, but Nominet is going ahead with the .uk domains anyway

As we have reported before, the plan for the new domains will force many online businesses to grab extra domains, thereby paying extra renewal fees and more. 

There are no convincing benefits for online businesses, though Nominet and its members look set to profit from the move

No matter though, as Nominet has announced that the new domains will be rolled out from summer 2014. 

The changes

According to Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley:

In an industry that is seeing an unprecedented level of change with the upcoming introduction of over a thousand new top level domains, we’re hard at work to ensure innovation in .uk keeps UK web users and businesses ahead of the curve.

At the same time, we’re holding ourselves to a higher standard – expanding the choices available to our customers, upping the bar for security, data quality and the way we engage with our registrars to ensure everyone registering, managing or visiting a website with a domain ending in .uk can be proud to be part of a strong, trusted community.

According to the release, existing .uk domain holders will be offered the shorter version of their current address, with five years to decide whether to use instead of, or in addition to their current domains. 

Where there is conflict, holders of .co.uk domains will be given preference over, for example, .org.uk. This piece of news will come as a relief for some, though charities and others may disagree. 

Many feel that Nominet has ignored feedback at its consultations and ploughed on regardless: 

Nominet did hold another consultation back in September, and two-thirds were 'for the most part against the proposal'. It seems this feedback has been ignored. 

In fact, it's hard to find anyone outside Nominet with a good word to say. For example, Dan Barker has yet to receive an answer to this tweet: 

It has at least dropped the price, with new domains set to cost £3.50 for a year and £2.50 for annual renewals. The initial proposals were to charge £20, so business will be relieved by this. 

Why is it a bad idea? 

I previously outlined several arguments against the proposals, but here's a quick recap...

No convincing business case

One thing is that Nominet has yet to put forward a convincing business case for the extensions. Bizarrely, it even says this isn't its purpose when carrying out consultations.

Surely a body which is committed to 'acting in the public interest', as it states on its site, should consider the needs of business owners? 

Does a .uk domain benefit the UK's online businesses enough to offset the costs? I've yet to see a convincing argument. 

As this article suggests, the organisation seems to exist to serve the interests of its members more than those of the digital economy, or the public in general. 

There is no real demand for it

The .co.uk domain works perfectly well for the country's online businesses, and there is no urgent need to change it nor any major sign of demand from businesses or consumers. 

In fact, the only justification I can find comes from research that "79% of British consumers prefer to use a .uk domain when buying online".

This figure comes from Nominet's own research, carried out in 2011 and, since I cannot find the full survey or methodology anywhere, it's hard to make sense of that statistic. 

Does the fact that users theoretically have to type two fewer characters make any difference? I doubt it, and besides, who even types in URLs these days anyway? 

It's effectively a tax on the UK's digital economy

If you have a site on the .co.uk domain, then you're effectively obliged to buy the .uk version. This is for several reasons: 

  • If .uk becomes the domain for the UK, you can't afford not to have one for your site. 
  • Fraud. Someone could easily buy the .uk version of your site and use it for phishing, as the distinction between .uk and .co.uk is a subtle one. 
  • Exploitation by competitors. A competitor site could buy the .uk version of your domain and use it to siphon off a chunk of your search traffic. 

Estimates vary, but some guess that the new domains could cost the UK's digital businesses between £50m and more than £100m when you take into account the costs of acquiring the new domains, changing stationery, staff time, technical changes, PPC and so on. 

This is a lot of money for businesses to spend, effectively to maintain the status quo for them and protect against potential domain squatters. 

The security justifications for the new domains are not backed up by the facts

Nominet has tied the new domain changes into security measures meant to reduce the £27bn lost annually to online crime in the UKr. 

Much of that £27bn comes from IP theft, which the new measures won't deal with. Secondly, if security is an issue, why not introduce these measures for existing domains? 

Security is not a justification for .uk domains. 

It devalues .co.uk 

This Nominet site is still promoting .co.uk as a great place to be, but it's about to reduce the value of these domains by introducing an alternative. 

How? Here are just two ways:

  • SEO. Will the new .uk domain carry more weight with the search engines? If so, then your search position is at risk. 
  • Security. If the new domains are billed as more secure, this implies that the others are riskier. 

In summary

This seems to be a proposal which doesn't have any major benefits for the digital economy, and indeed will place extra costs and workload on businesses, while the 'domainers' who make up many of Nominet's members, should make a tidy profit. 

Two-thirds were against the proposals when consulted, so it's hard to see any other motive for going ahead with the new domains. 

What do you think? Will the .uk domains benefit online businesses? Will you be moving to .uk? Let us know below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 20 November, 2013 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 (19)

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Edward Longley

Edward Longley, Digital professional at Freelance

Good article. Awful idea. A bit like MPs voting for payrises...

I'm one for progress, but I can't fathom how this will help consumers or the industry, other than through the creation of un-necessary work, and the employment that it creates.

I can understand why consumers would trust a .uk domain - providing as it does a useful differentiator between a UK based company and an overseas one. If you're visiting a brand operating in multiple geographies, you know you've got the right country. But we already have a .uk domain. At least we all save time on key presses, so instances of RSI might drop off?

As you point out, the cost of the domains is less than a pint (in my local at least). The hidden costs could be considerable, and this is at the expense of competing in a global economy - just working to stand still.

Thanks Nominet.

almost 3 years ago


Russell O'Sullivan

So everyone opposes it and nominet pushes forward no matter what. Personally I think this is a money making scheme for Nominet and they are the ONLY ones to benefit.

Brands who already rely on the the .co.uk to align themselves with the local UK consumers will be forces to register their brand .uk just to stop domain squatting or competitors etc taking the .uk of their "brand" term. Would there be some kind of copyright issue or preference to brands who have that trading name? Lets see..

This is just another way that things in the UK are going, from politicians to Internet businesses.. It's about the fast buck and not the bigger picture.. #Nominetfail

almost 3 years ago


Simon Richardson

The problem here is that the board and the Nominet members are making the decisions.

If you take a look at the list of members it is abundantly clear why this decision has been made. I have only skimmed the list, but it's made up of ISP's, web consultancies and anyone else that has a vested interest in increasing revenues and workflow for themselves.

I also note that the members come from all over the world. If I was a member of the Danish top level registrar, I'd vote in favour of every single increase in domains. Why do I care if the domain owners have to pay more for extra domains.

This whole exercise is a cynical revenue generating project. Yes the board will come out with the old, "..well this would give UK businesses the flexibility...and any addition revenue will be used to..." blah, blah, blah.

The only people that should count in this are the ones that operate domains - whether it be businesses running stores or the little blog guys.

We pay a fee (for basically nothing) to control these domains (we only own them for the time we pay the fees). We should be given a vote on whether to increase the number of domains.

Personally I have been relinquishing domains at an alarming rate this year as they become less effective (in terms of SERPS). At this very same time Nominet are operating a wind fall tax on UK businesses.

Nominet should be ashamed of themselves. I cannot believe that the board cannot and will not make a decision based on common consensus and common sense.

If this was a football club I'd have my "sack the board" banner out.

almost 3 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

I was incensed by this - and wrote to my MP about.
Nothing much happened.

I guess I'll write again today. (living in hope)

almost 3 years ago

Neale Gilhooley

Neale Gilhooley, MD at Evolution Design Ltd


almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Just received a press release:

"Confirmed new TLD is good news for British businesses, says 123-reg.co.uk"

almost 3 years ago

Simon Colley

Simon Colley, Managing Director at Absolute Internet Marketing

What an utter disgrace, absolutely no need for it. UK businesses who already own .co.uk domains should get this for free.

almost 3 years ago


Craig Fletcher

I'm a Nominet member and I've consistently opposed the introduction of the .uk, as has the majority of the members. It's certainly not in the interest of my clients.
Unfortunately, the Nominet voting system is not one member one vote, so companies whose business is primarily domain sales like 123-reg will do very nicely out of this change.

almost 3 years ago


Taras Young

How is this fair..? Organisations such as the National Portrait Gallery (npg.org.uk) will be penalised by missing out on the .uk version, just because they used the system as it was intended ('org.uk' for non-profit organisations). To an outsider, the whole thing seems dodgy in the extreme.

almost 3 years ago


Taras Young

Further to my previous comment - I should add I'm not saying that if a 'bigger' organisation owns the .org.uk, that the .co.uk owner should be ignored. Perhaps it would have made more sense to allow the party with the older registration to be the first to access the .uk - it's not like that information isn't available.

almost 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Good article.

IMO it's a complete and utter shambles that is about Nominet et al feathering their own nests at the expense of UK companies who will be paranoid about brand jacking.

There is zero need for these new domains and the PR slant that Nominet gives is crass and patronising.

I refuse to get a new domain on principle but i expect large brands in competitive markets will buy simply to preserve brand presence. Easy money. It's like MPs voting for their own pensions.

What a complete and utter waste of time. Well done Nosoulinet.


almost 3 years ago



We can't believe in a so called democratic system these blatant move to fill up their own coffers can't be stopped in its tracks! How is that possible? Surely we as holders of .co.uk or other .uk (e.g. .org.uk) domains and businesses should be able to put our case so that they start to see sense.

Like most of the article states and the many comments have reiterated, there's absolutely NO sensible point in doing this. It is Nominet's responsibility now to let everyone know why it's a good idea and why we need it, just in case EVERYONE has missed something!

All our clients are baffled by this move as are our own people.


almost 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Quick update Graham,

I asked people on Twitter what they thought and @Nominet responded with:

"Not about financial return. About offering choice, meeting biz demand & relevance. Profits invested in safer trusted internet."

Despite the fact their own consultation showed 2/3 felt negative about it.

So they're still trotting out the party line despite having given no clear evidence to support their view.

I'd welcome genuine evidence that there is a real business demand and relevance. I think they're deluding themselves.


almost 3 years ago


Rob Skelton

Given that most domain owners owning own one, and an extra 50p per year won't break anyone...

Why not just provide .uk as an enhancement to .co.uk domains. Every existing .co.uk owner gets a .uk for free. You then get the option of forwarding your traffic to .uk for 50p per year, or ignoring it.

That way, the UK wins by getting a shorter URL, and only the people that want it pay a tiny fee.

almost 3 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Rob,

I get where you're coming from but why is it needed? What problem does it solve?

There is no problem with .co.uk - it works fine and the public are used to it.

The effort is not justified if there is no clear commercial/financial benefit and as far as I can tell nobody has made a convincing business case for this.

I have a .co.uk forwarding to a .com. I don't need a .uk domain. If i don't buy my .uk, then someone else will be able to thus competing on my brand name at a domain level. How does that add value? It simply creates confusion.

I personally think it's ludicrous and the only people who win are the domain registration companies who make money for old rope.

However, if someone can present a rational and conclusive business case i'd be happy to reconsider.


almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@James - I have put a few questions to Nominet, discussing the issues raised in this article and elsewhere. I'll publish as and when I get a response.

almost 3 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum.co.uk

My MP has written back, saying he's put a question about it to the Minister.

Not sure what will come of that.

almost 3 years ago


Duncan Michael-MacGregor, Top Duck at Duck On Water

As .uk is now a thing, I would be interested to see how people think about it now?

over 1 year ago


John Ellard, Managing Director at AdWeb Limited

In my objection as a registrar I pointed out that this will generate more work for lawyers because unscrupulous people will attempt to register existing domains in co.uk in uk and pass-off.

This has happened to my own company before this change in regard to existing co.uk name variations not effectively policed by Nominet.

Nominet did not take account of my objection.

Nominet don't take account of much: via Dr Willie Black the current organisation came about and took control of the .uk namespace and are accountable to nobody other than themselves in my opinion. .UK namespace was originally run by volunteers who participated in the 'Naming Committee'. The history of Nominet deserves detailed scrutiny. It is worth asking how it is that this non-elected body has come to own and control and legislate for the UK namespace. Their habit of 'consultation' with their membership has - in my opinion - all the hallmarks of self-legitimisation.

Currently this consultation has moved into onerous regulation, requiring existing registrars to adhere to more and more arbitrary changes in registration methodology and - again in my opinion - having the general effect of squeezing-out small independent domain registrars. The governmental regulatory burden is not the issue for most of us - it is the burden imposed by the un-elected entity NOMINET.

12 months ago

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