.UK domains – What they mean for your business

Domain names are changing and for British businesses it's time to get used to the presence of shorter web addresses. Daniel Foster, director at website-hosting company 34SP.com, looks at what the repercussions of the slimmed-down .uk domain could be.

In March 2012, the 10 millionth web address ending in .uk was registered – a landmark reflecting the explosion in domain names since demand for them began to significantly increase in the early 1990s.

The number of registrations has continued to soar as countless businesses are set-up and websites are viewed as a fundamental part of their overall brand. From June however, the traditional.co.uk will be joined by a new, lean partner as .uk is introduced as a top level domain.

In just a few weeks’ time you’ll therefore begin to spot domain names with the format example.uk in addition to example.co.uk. If you’re operating as a business currently using .co.uk, you might be wondering what this will mean for you.

The change follows in the footsteps of other countries such as France (.fr) and Germany (.de) which have already done away with the requirement for second-level domains. This slimming-down will make it clearer to consumers where your business is based, meaning you will be able to capitalise on being an obvious British brand attached to the country’s global reputation for enterprise. The new option has been approved by Nominet, the non-profit organisation which operates the .uk domain.

The domain will bring with it a number of security measures. Among the most prominent is the need for those registering a .uk address to prove that their business is genuine and is based in the UK rather than being an overseas distributor of malware. The new domains will also include tools offering protection from, and monitoring of, malware.

In terms of actually getting a .uk domain, digital companies in particular will want to be seen as taking a lead in adopting the new shorter suffix. However, whatever the nature of your business, it’s not compulsory and it doesn’t have to be done right away – existing domains such as.co.uk and .org.uk will continue to operate as they’ve done before.

More on domain names:

The potential for ‘cyber-squatting’ and the hijacking of the new .uk address is also being tackled through a five-year period of grace. So, if your existing address is co.uk, you’ll have some time to ensure that someone else doesn’t grab your .uk. There are additional practicalities attached to these timescales, which are intended to allow businesses to make the switch at the best time for them that might coincide with a logo change or even a large-scale order of new stationery. As long as you take action within five-years, you can choose when to take up your .uk domain. After the five-year period has finished – in June 2019 – it’ll be available on the open market.

There is also an additional point to be aware of if your business has a similar web address to another company and you’re thinking of adopting the new .uk domain. If one company has an example.co.uk address and another has example.org.uk then, according to Nominet, the .uk domain will be offered to example.co.uk first. If you’re the example.org.uk people in this instance the Nominet website advises: ‘Where one person holds example.co.uk and another holds example.org.uk – the shorter domain will be offered to the .co.uk registrant.’  The only recourse seems to be to wait five years to see if the .co.uk holder opts to register the .uk domain. In a way, the .org.uk domain holders are simply out of luck here.

Prices for a .uk domain are dependent on which registration company you choose to buy the new domain from and have not yet been firmly set, with the aim being to keep such costs as a very low percentage of the total outlay for running a website.

The new .uk domain will be available from 10 June, after which it will no doubt become an increasingly common sight.

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven

Hunter was the Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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