Nominet's proposals to add a .uk domain have not been popular, to put it mildly.
However, it has decided to introduce the change anyway, albeit with some minor concessions.
Critics point out that the new domains aren't necessary, devalue the existing .co.uk domains, and impose unwanted costs on online businesses.
So why has Nominet decided to go ahead with the move anyway? I've asked the question...
How will the new .uk domains benefit Nominet and its members?
We believe the introduction of second level domains for .uk will help ensure the UK namespace remains widely used and competitive in the future, which benefits UK web users.
The fast-changing nature of the internet – 67% of our current registrations are less than five years old – emphasises the need to continually attract new customers to the .uk namespace, which we are committed to making the most trusted in the world.
In addition, the upcoming introduction of hundreds of new generic top-level domains will give website owners much greater choice and may signal a shift toward shorter, ‘snappier’ website addresses.
Nominet is committed to supporting and protecting the .uk namespace. Given the changing landscape, we need to be proactive in ensuring .uk is seen as up-to-date and desirable in the years ahead.
Offering the choice of a shorter, more straightforward website address is a way of doing this.
We think shorter domains will prove popular, and may persuade more people to join the .uk namespace, which we want to be as strong, popular and well-recognised as possible.
Further, we believe we have an obligation to provide UK registrants with options comparable to what is available internationally, so that they are able to choose what best suits them while still signalling their UK presence. Many other country-code domain registries already offer registration at the second level (example.de, example.fr).
In the most recent consultation, your own document quotes that 'two-thirds were in the most part against the proposal'. Given this strong opposition, why did you decide to go ahead with the plan?
We want to ensure that .uk continues to evolve and holds its own in this competitive market sector. We were looking to change in a broader context, whilst still maintaining a loyal customer base.
In response feedback from the consultation, we decided to make a number of significant changes, such as offering .co.uk holders the opportunity to secure the equivalent example.uk domain name with a free five year reservation period and parity pricing with .co.uk .
As part of the wider consultation process, we also spoke to businesses and internet users and 72% of them thought that example.uk should be an option. In a sample study, we found that 70% reacted positively to the example.uk concept.
Our research reflected that the shorter .uk domain is attractive to many potential registrants, which reinforced our view that adding additional choice to the .uk portfolio will mean we can offer an attractive .uk option for a broader range of registrants.
As evidence of demand for second level domain registrations, you have put forth this survey, which you referred to in the previous answer. Could you provide more details on the methodology, number of respondents, and questions asked?
We’re not planning to publish any further details of our market research in addition to that which is already available on our website.
Here's what's available on the website:
What is the point of canvassing opinion if you choose to ignore it?
We are certainly not ignoring opinion and have made significant changes to the proposal to take into account opinion. We are giving our existing customers time to make up their mind on whether they would like to go ahead and buy the second level domain.
We have given customers a five year period for them to make their decision.
The public consultation was never intended to be a referendum on whether or not the proposal should go ahead. It was part of a wider programme of research and analysis, all of which have contributed to the final decision.
Can you explain the reasoning behind the decision to allow five years for holders of .co.uk domains to decide whether to take up the .uk equivalent?
We understand that this is a big decision for our existing customers so we introduced this period to give them a chance to work out whether they would like to buy the .uk equivalent without any pressure.
How businesses decide on how they want to brand themselves looking forward to the future is not a decision to be made quickly and we appreciate that.
For businesses choosing to move to .uk, we want to minimise additional costs as much as possible. We believe that a five-year period will mitigate the marketing/rebranding costs associated with moving to a new web address, as the changes could form part of a natural cycle of refreshing a brand and/or updating marketing material.
Would you advise website owners to drop the .co.uk domain once they have the .uk version? Why?
We wouldn’t advise either way. It is completely up to the website owner whether they would like to have only the .uk version or both the .uk and the .co.uk.
We would advise them to consider which domain ending best suits their business.
Beyond the 'choice' that has been mentioned, what actual business benefits exist for current websites/businesses on .co.uk domains?
The new example.uk domains are sharper and snappier, while still signalling a connection with the UK. A business choosing a .uk domain name will benefit from being part of a trusted, popular namespace that is overwhelmingly preferred by British consumers.
Some businesses may decide that a second-level domain name offers a better brand signalling opportunity for them. As search engines and apps are making domain names less about finding a website and more about brand signalling, this is an increasingly important consideration.
Who does Nominet exist to serve? UK web users? The UK economy?
Both. We are a not-for-profit organisation that is responsible for the smooth and secure running of the .uk infrastructure. As such, a public service ethos drives everything we do – we strive to make the internet an ever more trusted space for everyone who uses it.
As the guardian of the .uk internet infrastructure, millions of businesses and consumers depend on us to keep their domain names secure.
Why did you decide to give priority to holders of existing .co.uk domains? Isn't there a risk that charities and others will lose out to less deserving holders? For example, Barclays Bank owns bhf.co.uk, and will have preference over the British Heart Foundation.
The approach to give priority to .co.uk domain holders was one of the most common suggestions in the consultation feedback we received. We agree that this is the best option as it is fair to as many people as possible, will minimise consumer confusion, and best reflects the perceptions and expectations within the domain name market.
The vast majority of registrations in the .uk namespace are .co.uk – 93% compared to 7% for all others (.org.uk, .me.uk, etc) combined. This suggests .co.uk has come to be seen as the ‘default’ suffix for many UK businesses and consumers.
The second-largest group (6%) are .org.uk registrations, and we understand that many .org.uk sites place a specific value on including the .org, as it indicates a ‘special’ status as a non-commercial organisation.
We believe that .org.uk will remain the preferred domain for not for profit organisations. Indeed, Nominet will remain as a .org.uk.
Do the changes devalue the existing .co.uk domain? If not, why not?
No, the new example.uk domains will sit alongside the existing portfolio of .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk etc which will all continue to run as normal. The changes are being made to keep the .uk domain space as competitive as possible in the face of new gTLDs being introduced.
We’re now moving from an online environment that for years has been defined by endings such as .co.uk and .com to one that will see hundreds, if not thousands, of new domains become available in the next few years.
Making example.uk available means that businesses and consumers alike have the choice to register the domains that are most relevant to them, and those that would like to have a .uk domain as part of this have the opportunity to register it.
How will this benefit online businesses? How will the benefits outweigh the extra costs and confusion?
There is no automatic cost for business. All existing .uk domains will remain as they are and businesses can retain their current domains at current prices.
If businesses choose to register in .uk, we have set the wholesale prices the same as a .co.uk, at £3.50 per year for single year registrations and £2.50 per year for multi-year registrations.
Businesses can choose whether or not to move to a direct .uk address, based on their own assessment of what is best for them. Logically, a business is not going to choose to switch to using a direct .uk address unless they’ve assessed that the benefits outweigh the costs.