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10|29|2012 07:25 am EDT

Speaking out against the Nominet proposed release of second level .UK domains

by Frank Michlick in Categories: ccTLDs

After releasing single and two letter .co.uk domain names, Nominet, the operator of the .UK ccTLD is currently running a consultation on a release of domains under the second level, i.e. example.uk.On his site MyDomainNames.co.uk domain industry veteran Edwin Hayward from Memorable Domains details why he opposes the proposed procedure for release of those domains with a 22-page document (PDF).
Here’s a short summary of his most important points from his website:
  • Most businesses use .co.uk, and 93% of UK names are .co.uk
  • [...] these [second level] names will not be offered to the owners of .co.uk (e.g. the BBC would not automatically get BBC.uk)
  • Instead priority will be given to trademark holders. Sounds fair to you? Read here why this is a bad idea.
  • 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)
  • This will cause uncertainty and confusion, and risks damaging trust in .co.uk and hurting UK businesses
  • [Due to the higher proposed annual registration fees] the direct cost to UK businesses will be at least £50,000,000 per year, and associated adjustment costs could run to £billions. This estimate does not account for auction income from domain names that several parties are interested in.
  • Other countries went about the same process quite differently. In every previous case, existing domain owners were given priority ahead of other interests.

If Nominet still decides to go ahead with the release of second level domains, Hawyward is proposing a process (“Proposal for the Equitable Allocation of .uk Domain Names” as of page 8 (PDF)) where the existing registrants of the .co.uk equivalent of the names get priority in a sunrise procedure for registering the .uk counter part.

The phases of the counterproposal are:

  1. Domain Owner Sunrise (60-90 days): Sunrise phase for existing domain owners, also taking trademarks (from current domain owners) into account
  2. Trademark Sunrise (120 days): Sunrise period for trademark owners without existing domains.
  3. Landrush (60 days application + 30 day auction): Expression of interest available to everyone
  4. General Availability (first come first served): Domains available to everyone, normal registration fees
The proposal is backed by a lot of underlying background data, including a comparison how similar launches were handled in other ccTLDs.

What do you think, who should get priority rights for the release of .UK names? Should they be released at all? What do you think of Edwin’s proposal?

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  • Nigel

    Full marks to Edwin for all his efforts. Nominet’s proposals smack of greed. Nominet were one of the world’s most economical operators with reg fees from as low as £5 for two years. They have spent over a decaded promoting .co.uk, .org.uk and .me.uk – telling everyone .co.uk is “a great place to be”. That slogan will come back to haunt them. So will their Sept 2011 auction of two letter domains that racked in £3m. That auction sent out the message that .co.uk was here to stay. Many domains were sold to overseas buyers. Those buyers have now seen their .co.uk investment plummet and the news that the new shorter .uk is only open to uk based businesses is the ultimate smack in the face.

    Nominet now want to charge £20 for the new domain. So Nominet will go from being the most economical operators to one of the most expensive. They say that the new domain will be ‘more secure’ but that’s just a game to try to force this new domain onto the market. This new domain is not wanted. Businesses are quite happy with the present arrangement. In nearly 10 years of domain investment no purchaser of a domain has ever said to us that they wanted a shorter .uk. I think everyone realised that the playing field was fair with most businesses opting for .co.uk and non profits going for .org.uk. Nominet could have chosen .uk from the outset but they went for the present system because they would get a lot more domains registered.

    Businesses who invested heavily in descriptive domains will be the biggest losers. Not just small businesses – look at LLoyds Bank who purchased a number of domains from misys in 2001 for a reported £750,000. The jewel of the deal was insurance.co.uk but Lloyds will not be given any preference in the new proposed insurance.uk. Trademark holders come first under nominet’s proposals and Lloyds have not got a trademark for ‘insurance’ because that would have been nigh impossible to obtain. The same situation will happen with bank.co.uk which is owned by barclays. Not surprisingly barclays do not have a trademark for the word ‘bank’. So it will be businesses, small and large, and many individuals who believed nominet when they said .co.uk was ‘a great place to be’ who will suffer. I can see years of litigation. If nominet were a financial services company they would, no doubt, face misselling claims. They have promoted, and even auctioned, one product and then pulled another one out of their pocket. What sort of an advert is that for the UK?

  • Nigel

    Sorry I seem to have wiped my post which alerted everyone to the fact that nominet are still publishing their website agreatplacetobe.co.uk – its still promoting .co.uk and encouraging businesses to invest in that extension. There is no mention on the website that nominet have launched a consultation on the proposed introduction of a new shorter .uk extension in addition to the .co.uk version. They should, in my opininion, either pull this site now or put up a clear warning on the homepage so that no more businesses invest large sums into .co.uk without, at least, being told of nominet’s plans.

  • Steve

    Only tm holders should get priority rights. Didn’t everyone expect they would eventually shorten it? .co.uk is ridiculous. .uk makes way more sense. .com.mx didn’t give the .mx to existing .com.mx owners. Welcome to the free market. They should open .uk up to everyone in and outside the UK. It would make a great extension. imho