The .uk domain name extension is said to be the fourth most popular ‘top-level domain’ in the world (after .com, .de and .net).  However, it has never been possible to register domain names which simply end .uk (for example, dehns.uk).  Instead, anyone wishing to register a UK-specific domain name has had to include a so-called ‘third-level domain’, such as .co (as in dehns.co.uk), or .org (as in dehns.org.uk). 

All this is due to change from summer 2014, when for the first time, shorter, simpler .uk domains will be available to register alongside domains ending in .co.uk, .org.uk and so on.  This change represents the biggest ever shake-up of the UK domain name infrastructure.  It also coincides with the upcoming introduction of over a thousand new ‘global top-level domains’, such as .app, .music, and .shop , as previously reported here.

What should brand owners do?

According to Nominet, the UK internet registry, applications to register new .uk domains will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, except where an equivalent .co.uk or .org.uk domain is already registered.

The owners of each existing .co.uk and .org.uk domains will be invited to register the equivalent .uk domain, and will have five years to decide whether they wish to use the shorter domain in addition to, or instead of, the domain they already own.  Where one party already owns a .co.uk domain and another party already owns a .org.uk domain, the shorter .uk domain will be offered to the party owning the .co.uk domain.

Brand owners interested in registering new .uk domains should therefore consider registering equivalent .co.uk domains as soon as possible (if they have not already done so), rather than simply waiting until the summer.

And for any organisation concerned about protecting its brands online, the imminent explosion in the number of ‘top-level domains’ also makes the use of specialist domain monitoring services all the more valuable.