Earlier this year, Nominet offered the opportunity to register names in the top level for the first time since their inception back in 1985. The .co.uk suffix has been one of the most successful in terms of domain registrations, with over 10 million registrations. Earlier this year, Nominet began to offer up the top level .uk domain name to both existing second level (“grandfathering”) and new registrants.
Grandfathering meant that existing owners of .co.uk domains were given automatic rights to the corresponding .uk domain on launch, providing there was no other equivalent second level .uk domain in existence (such as a .me.uk or .org.uk). Existing registrants were given five years from 10 June 2014 to take up this right, meaning that many brand holders could essentially defensively protect their digital assets without having to commit to registering the .uk domain name in the short term.
Good news for brand holders you may think but it appears that a new problem has raised its head that many organisations may simply not be aware of. Whilst issues around cybersquatting and typosquatting are nothing new, few saw the risk that the new .uk TLD would bring. Their formula seems to be very simple yet very effective. Take an existing .co.uk domain name, simply drop the first “.” and add it to a brand name then rely on consumers simply being fooled by the missing punctuation.
Amazonco.uk, tescoco.uk or hsbcco.uk – all registered, all resolving to parked pages that offer monitised links. The good news for these brands is that there appears to be no phishing risk, but that’s not to say that other brands aren’t so lucky. The typosquatters are simply playing the odds on us mistyping domain names to try and get traffic. Even the best brand protection and monitoring solutions may struggle to pick up these infringing domain names, hence why it is only becoming apparent now.
Many of these names seem to be registered by the same organisation, which suggests that they may have thought they have found a way to make a fast buck. However, now that brand holders are aware of the issue, we can hope normality can soon return.