Is the .uk domain a gamechanger for business?

The new top level domain .uk is available from June. It could help reinforce your business’ British brand, but how do you sign up for these domain names and what are the costs and protection issues?

In November 2013, Nominet approved plans to open up the .uk top-level domain (tld) for direct registration, meaning you will now be able to register a web address directly before the ‘dot’ in .uk, such as example.uk.

This represents the most significant modification of the .uk namespace since it began, and is almost certain to eventually replace the ubiquitous .co.uk as the extension of choice for British companies.

From 10 June 2014, the domain will open up to the public for the first time – so what are the implications for businesses in the UK, and will registering a .uk domain name be worthwhile?

Why would my small business want a .uk domain?

The shortening of the .uk domain will see businesses using it gain access to a shorter, simpler and more memorable domain name extension, bringing the UK into line with other countries such as France (.fr) and Germany (.de) that have already done away with the requirement for second-level domains.

It will hopefully eliminate instances of confusion between similar second-level domain names by standing out as clearly separate from those – but more importantly, it is the clearest indication yet for consumers that you are a business based in the UK, allowing you to capitalise on British enterprise’s global reputation.

Registering early will also mark your company out as right on top of technological developments, which is particularly important if you are a digital business.

How can you get a .uk domain name?

Some registrars are already offering pre-orders of .uk domains on their sites, such as 123-reg , 1&1 and TSOHost. If you already have a .co.uk, .org.uk or .me.uk address that you simply wish to transfer over, you’ll be guaranteed a .uk domain.

Am I compelled to buy a .uk domain?

No. You can continue to use your existing second-level domain if you wish – the registration of the new addresses is not compulsory, and existing domains administered by Nominet (.co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk, .me.uk, .plc.uk, .ltd.uk and .sch.uk) will continue to function as normal.

However, businesses with .co.uk domain names are being offered a five-year free reservation period in which they can take up the .uk version of their name at a convenient time, after which the domain will become available on the open market. The five-year grace period is designed to allow businesses to take up their new domains when it coincides with a change of address or stationery, to make the transition as smooth as possible. In cases of conflict between .uk domains – for example, if one company holds .co.uk and another holds .org.uk – Nominet says the shorter domain will be offered to .co.uk first.

Essentially, if you already have a web address ending in .uk, there’s no need to rush, and as long as no conflict exists with another .uk business with the same name, you are safe from early adopters pulling the rug out from under your feet.

How much will a .uk domain name cost?

The new domains will cost £3.50 for a single-year registration or £2.50 for multi-year registration – exactly the same as .co.uk addresses cost currently. These prices are wholesale, and registrars haven’t firmly set prices yet but they shouldn’t be considerably different. Nominet says this ensures the cost of a domain name will remain a very small proportion (around 1.5% on average) of the total cost of running a website.

How can I protect my domain name?

The introduction of the .uk domain is not simply a matter of national pride – it has been introduced by Nominet specifically to benefit businesses in the UK, and alongside the benefits offered by a shorter suffix the body is introducing a raft of security measures intended to protect enterprise.

The new .uk addresses will offer an in-built suite of protection available for registrants, separate and in addition to the other suffixes Nominet administers. Chief amongst these will be a requirement for registrants to prove that their companies are based in the UK – giving visitors and consumers the confidence that the domain relates to a real British company and not an overseas distributor of malware.

In addition, .uk domains will adopt a version of the Domain Name Security System Extensions (DNSSEC) protocol – essentially a suite of built-in authentication tools to give your domain an additional level of protection from malicious hijacking – and routine monitoring of malware threats throughout .uk domains, with notifications sent to those at risk of current viral outbreaks.

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