In a further evolution of the domain name landscape, Nominet UK (Nominet), the .uk Registry, has launched the new .uk domain. Available as of 08:00 on 10 June 2014 (the ‘launch date’), a .uk domain is intended to offer a “sharper and snappier” alternative to existing domains such as .co.uk and .org.uk, whilst signalling a connection with the UK and providing a trusted, popular new space for creating an online identity or highlighting a brand’s place in the market (according to Nominet and dotuklaunch.uk). A record 50,000 registrations were made within the first 24 hours of .uk becoming available, with Stephen Fry leading the way and changing his website from .co.uk to .uk. In celebration of the .uk domain rollout, a 10,000 sq ft welcome sign was put in place near the main runway at London Heathrow airport, reading “welcometothe.uk”.

.uk registration

Nominet’s existing domains (.co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .plc.uk, .ltd.uk and .sch.uk) will continue to run as normal, alongside .uk, and any person may apply to register a .uk domain name provided that their application complies with Nominet’s rules; is not one of the already existing second level domains (such as parliament.uk); is not an ‘excluded domain’ (relating to government bodies, such as hmi-prisons.uk and mi5.uk); and is not identical to a string which already exists or has been reserved (see below). Domains cannot be registered in bulk and the wholesale price for the new .uk domain is the same as for .co.uk domain names, ie, £3.50 per year for single year registrations and £2.50 per year for multi-year registrations. Further, an address for service in the UK is required where a registrant is outside the UK and PO Box addresses are not accepted. Under Nominet’s rules, prohibitions have been put in place to ensure that second level registrants cannot set themselves up as new third level registries.

Existing domain owners  

Owners of Nominet’s existing domains, such as .co.uk, registered before the launch date (subject to a ‘clash’, see below), are not automatically offered the shorter .uk option and must instead register their new .uk domain name with their chosen registrar (and choose whether to hold a .uk domain name in addition to, or instead of, their current domain name). Nevertheless, in the case of over 96 per cent of the c. 10.5 million domain names already registered (per dotuklaunch.uk), the equivalent .uk domain has been automatically reserved for users for five years at no cost. It is important to note that, if a .co.uk domain name is cancelled, then the automatic reservation of the equivalent .uk is lost and cannot be recovered and the .uk domain name becomes available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Domain name clashes

Where two or more current owners have the same website name but a different domain name ending (such as www.happy.co.uk and www.happy.net.uk, ie, a ‘clash’ or ‘contention’), there is a priority system to decide which domain name holder has first entitlement to the .uk version of their domain name (see http://www.dotuklaunch.uk/rights-lookup-tool for further details). As a general rule, if there is a clash, priority goes to the owner who had registered, at the cut off date of 23:59 on 28 October 2013, the .co.uk domain name, followed by the .org.uk domain name and then the .me.uk domain name. According to Nominet, prior to the launch date, 93 per cent of registrations in the .uk namespace consisted of .co.uk domain names, whilst .org.uk domain names (which indicate a non-commercial organisation) constituted 6 per cent of registrations. All .co.uk domain names registered after 28 October 2013 and before the launch date will also have rights, subject to a clash.

Transferring domain name ownership during the reservation period

In the event that an owner of, for example, a .co.uk domain name wishes to transfer their equivalent .uk domain to a third party before the end of the five year reservation period, such owner must register and transfer the .uk domain name themselves; the procedure for and costs of transferring .uk domains are the same as for .co.uk domain names. Further, if an owner transfers, for example, a .co.uk, domain name to a third party, the right to register the equivalent .uk domain name passes to that third party, provided that there is continuous registration of the .co.uk domain name.