Will “.UK” Be Most Trusted Domain On The Web?

The new top-level .uk domain proposed recently by Nominet could create the world’s most trusted country code on the web, and could lead to .uk becoming an equivalent of a British Kitemark standard.

Nominet’s proposals are a unique example of a national domain registry pre-empting the best practices proposed by ICANN for new generic top-level domain due in 2013.

Nominet, the body responsible for overseeing all UK web addresses, announced a three-month consultation to launch .uk at the top level, running alongside established .co.uk domains. The ultimate aim of the .uk launch is to increase trust in the .uk Internet space and create further availability of .uk domains for British businesses and consumers.

Nominet is proposing measures to protect website visitors that are more stringent than any other national registry has yet implemented. The new domain could clearly come with a greater barrier to entry as a result of mandatory Domain Security Extensions (DNSSEC) and a potentially arduous authentication process to enable your domain.

However, the overall aim of making a .uk domain a safer environment for UK browsers will be worth the energy. I applaud this move. I believe the focus on a quality domain space can only benefit the end user and the industry overall.

At this stage it appears that Nominet is going further than other national domain registries in its efforts to protect consumers, and the issues behind Nominet’s authentication and security proposals are very real. The UK’s economy and consumers lose billions to fraudsters and counterfeiters, who re-route traffic to rogue websites.

Nominet is proposing to protect .uk websites by automatically monitoring them for malware, and suspending infected sites if they are not fixed quickly by the owner once notified of an issue.

Under the current proposals announced last month, .uk registrants would have to prove that they have a valid base in the UK, by having an activation PIN sent to their premises. Address details would be periodically checked and re-checked throughout the domain’s life, for example during renewals and transfers, to give the best reassurance that the domain holder has a base in the United Kingdom.

If Nominet and the industry can achieve the aims behind their proposals, then .uk could become a kind of Kitemark for websites, engendering greater trust in the site and the brand behind it. I look forward to the industry coming together to discuss and refine these proposals so that we can create a final blueprint for the most trusted country code domain on the web.

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Richard Winslow has held senior management appointments within the Web hosting and domain name industry since 2001. As head of Webfusion's Hosting and Domains, Richard is responsible for overall P&L of the mass market products, including 123-reg.co.uk, the largest registrar of .uk domain names and the UK's leading brand for domains.

  • This article completely sidesteps the issue that existing .co.uk registrants may well not be able to get their matching .uk domain name under Nominet’s proposal, which would give trademark holders first dibs at the new extension.

    Even after trademark holders have had their fill, Nominet is still imposing additional conditions on .uk registrants and plans to make a “usage test” part of evaluating whether .co.uk registrants can get their .uk or not.

    It also won’t take any account of the age of an existing domain registration, so if you’ve been doing business on your .co.uk for 15 years and somebody has a .org.uk or .me.uk that was registered a few months ago, you’d have to fight it out in auction with them for the right to own .uk.

    By releasing .uk as a “new and better” domain name, what Nominet will actually do is destroy the currently immense trust that consumers have in .co.uk (Nominet’s own surveys have shown that trust exceeding 80% and rising every single year).

    A good parallel would be a car manufacturer only putting safety features such as seatbelts and airbags (or brakes?) on one particular model. Who would want any other model once that policy became clear?

    Similarly, everyone is familiar with washing powder ads where the new formulation “washes whiter” than the old. By launching an extension that is “safer”, “more trusted”, “more secure” than .co.uk, Nominet will be responsible for destroying trust in the latter.

    This will be to the detriment of the 4,000,000+ UK businesses which already do business on .co.uk names, and which collectively contribute to an internet economy worth £121 billion (or 8.3% of GDP, highest of any G20 country)

    They will be forced to obtain the matching .uk domain name to their existing .co.uk domain AT ANY COST to protect their existing investment in their online identity.

    Nominet’s motives for rolling out .uk are entirely self-serving: they stand to make over £50,000,000 during the initial launch rollout, based on the uptake of second level domains in other countries that have already gone through similar transitions. That sum represents over twice Nominet’s 2011 income, and is money that will come directly out of the pockets of UK businesses.

    Nominet are not planning to ask existing domain registrants what they think about this, doubtless because they can already imagine the cries of horror at the prospect of consumer confusion and additional costs that such a change will bring. Instead, they’ve limited themselves to contacting their 2,800-odd Members, which are mostly made up of domain registrars and web hosting firms who stand to profit directly from selling the new extension to existing customers desperate to secure their .uk.

    This is outlined at length, together with supporting statistics, data and other evidence, in the 26-page position paper I’ve put together which can be downloaded from http://www.mydomainnames.co.uk/