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…