As many of us were eating our porridge this morning, history was being made online as Nominet, the organisation responsible for running the United Kingdom domain name space, launched the .uk top level domain.
The UK has had its own domain name since the early days of the Internet with .co.uk and now nineteen years and some 10,550,000 domains later the United Kingdom has been brought in line with dozens of other countries with its own top level domain name. The short, snappy .uk TLD will prove to be very popular with brand holders and individuals alike, especially as existing second level .uk holders will get the first chance to secure their new domain name.
Nominet originally announced their plans over a year ago, although they had to change their plans for the allocation of the TLDs to existing second level domain holders to avoid confusion and to protect the digital assets and intellectual property of those domain holders. The new release plan is very clear for existing second level .uk domain holders as well as potential new registrants.
Whilst .co.uk is the most well-known second level .uk TLD, there are actually fourteen current variants, ranging from .ac.uk for colleges and universities, nhs.uk for the National Health Service to police.uk. To create a sense of fairness, Nominet’s allocation rule is based on a first-come, first-serve basis – the first or oldest registration in the .uk second level space has the right to the new .uk domain name. So, whilst .co.uk may be the TLD everyone knows, it may be one of the lessor known TLDs that has the right. These rights holders have five years to take up their right to the new .uk domain name. During that period, their intellectual property will be safe from cybersquatters and imposters.
Nominet’s timing in releasing the new TLD is also very clever. In just two weeks the great and the good will arrive in London for the 50th ICANN Conference and it has only been a few weeks since the sunrise launch of the dotLondon TLD. Put simply, the United Kingdom is going domain name crazy. Whilst not part of the Generic Top Level Domain expansion programme, the launch of .uk will immediately catch the eye of brand holders who are now used to seeing up to ten new Top Level Domains being launched per week.
Nominet have also invested in a highly visible marketing campaign, recruiting one of the UK’s most loved internet-savvy celebrities, Stephen Fry to use a .uk for his website as well as promoting the new TLD with a huge poster campaign at London Heathrow airport with the message “Welcometothe.uk”.
Whilst the five year “grandfathering” period will ensure that we do not see the same land-grab of the most popular TLDs as we have seen previously, brand holders will start to take up their option in the next few weeks to register their new top level .uk. As we have already seen in the use of new gTLDs, the search engines will rank sites using the new Top Level Domains based on content rather than the TLD. When a few brands start to see traction, there will be no reason why brand holders will not grab the opportunity of the new, shorter, snappier TLD with both hands.
Written by Stuart Fuller, Director of Commercial Operations and Communications, NetNames.