This is a guest post from Edwin Hayward, who has been involved in the domain name industry since 1996. He set up the first dedicated domain name news and information website, Internet Goldrush (later sold to the current owner).
Edwin continues to participate actively on several domain discussion forums, and has been invited to be a panelist at various industry tradeshows. He is a director and co-owner of Memorable Domains Ltd, a UK based domain investment company with a portfolio of 7,000 .co.uk domains.
Nominet has proposed allowing the registration of domains directly under .uk (such as example.uk) for the first time.
Currently, there are over 10,000,000 domain names registered in the UK, and 93% of them are .co.uk domains. The internet economy contributes over £121 billion to UK GDP (at 8.3% it’s the highest of any G20 country).
However, Nominet is planning to turn its back on existing domain name registrants and make the .uk domains available to trademark holders first.
This would mean organisations such as Barclays stand to lose “bank.uk”, Kellogg would lose “breakfast.uk” and so on. Basically, Nominet are choosing to ignore the fact that just about every common English word and phrase has been trademarked by someone somewhere.
Generic domain holders on the other hand tend not to trademark their names because by definition they’re descriptive, and you can’t trademark something in the class to which it relates.
So far, Nominet have done a fantastic job of ‘burying the lead’ on this issue. Of the 51 news reports that followed their initial call for a consultation, only 2 mentioned anything about possible effects on existing domain owners, and this only in passing. Instead, Nominet managed to distract attention by making its “pitch” for the new domain space squarely about trust and security.
The proposed price point for .uk registrations is around £20/year wholesale, making them 800% more expensive than existing .co.uk domains. This would bring Nominet an overnight windfall of some £50,000,000 (for context, that’s more than double their 2011 revenue).
UK businesses would be left to pick up the bill, because they will have no choice but to try and secure the matching .uk domain for their existing .co.uk domain at any choice. Nominet has seen to that by packaging .uk with a suite of additional services designed to make “.uk” the most trusted and secure domain extension in the UK.
The flipside of course being that if something’s “more trusted and more secure” then everything else will be seen as “less trusted and less secure” – in other words, Nominet’s going to erode the existing very high trust in .co.uk in pursuit of new revenue generating opportunities.
It’s like washing powder ads, if the new powder “washes whiter” then who’s going to want to keep buying the old one?
Nominet’s proposal ignores best practices that have been established during similar transitions in other countries. In all other cases, the rights of existing domain owners have been acknowledged and they have been given priority over the matching 2LD.
It’s worth noting that Australia has considered and rejected a rollout of registrations directly under .au on a number of occasions, most recently in 2010 and 2007. The 2010 Names Policy Panel noted that “People thought the current 2LD hierarchy is well-known and understood, and introducing direct registrations would cause unnecessary confusion for little public benefit”. This is exactly the same issue facing .co.uk registrants.
I have prepared a detailed position paper on this issue. Packed with stats and data, it illustrates exactly who stands to win and who stands to lose, and it can be downloaded from: MyDomainNames.co.uk