Nominet, the organisation which controls .uk domain names, is launching .uk domain name registrations at the second level. This means that there’ll be domains such as example.uk, bbc.uk, brentfordnylons.uk etc.
After a consultation, Nominet have changed how they will offer the .uk domains to those who own existing .co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk etc domains. This could impact on charities.
In their press release on 1 July 2013, Nominet said:
"A ‘right of first refusal’ would give registrants of existing .uk domain names at the third level (e.g. .co.uk, .me.uk, .org.uk etc) the opportunity to secure the corresponding registration at the second level. In the event of two competing claims, the oldest current, continuous registration would be given priority. The proposal is to run the right of first refusal for a 6 month period from launch."
When I read it at the time, it seemed to be a fair way of doing it. Many charities bought their .org.uk domain in the 1990s before cybersquatting was a big thing. They may not have thought that buying the .co.uk domain equivalent was important. Or couldn’t afford it. Or they weren’t going to waste money in 1995 if they were unsure how this ‘internet’ thing was going to turn out.
Now, in their press release on 20 November 2013, Nominet have changed the proposal:
"In the small proportion of instances where there could be competition – e.g. 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 Nominet board made this change at their meetings on 29 October and 12 November 2013 [PDF]. They said:
"Granting Right of Refusal to existing .co.uk registrants has the advantage that it is a clear message to communicate to end-users and registrants and is operationally much simpler for registrars who, on our previous proposal, would have had to verify time stamp data to assess which was the oldest registration in cases of contention. The actual impact of this change is proportionately fairly small, as the majority of .co.uk holders in contention sets are also the holder of the oldest continuously registered domain. Changing the Right Of Refusal to .co.uk, combined with the extension of the reservation period to five years, in our view substantially mitigates the costs and risks around confusion. It recognises that many perceive the ‘natural’ linkage of domains as being example.co.uk and example.uk."
Examples of how this change will affect some charities:
British Heart Foundation has owned bhf.org.uk since before 1996. Barclays Bank have owned bhf.co.uk since 1998 and it’s completely offline. Barclays will now be automatically given first refusal on bhf.uk. Before Nominet changed their proposal, the British Heart Foundation were to be given first refusal.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has owned adviceguide.org.uk since 1999. A private individual has owned advice guide.co.uk since 2003 and uses it to sell ads. The ad site will now be automatically given first refusal on adviceguide.uk, whereas before the CAB were to be given first refusal.
The Stroke Association has owned stroke.org.uk since 1997. A private individual had owned stroke.co.uk since 2001 and it redirects to a different domain name which is a sex toys and lingerie retailer. The erotica store will now automatically be given first refusal on stroke.uk, whereas before the Stroke Association were to be given first refusal.
The MS Society has owned mssociety.org.uk since before 1996. A private individual has owned mssociety.co.uk since 2004 and it’s completely offline. This private individual will now be automatically given first refusal on mssociety.uk, whereas before the MS Society were to be given first refusal.
The reason I’m writing about this is that my own charity will be affected. Epilepsy Action has owned epilepsy.org.uk since before 1996. A company who sell ads have owned epilepsy.co.uk since 1997. The ad site will now automatically be given first refusal on epilepsy.uk, whereas before Epilepsy Action were to be given first refusal.
If you’re a charity, check to see who owns the .co.uk version of your domain. If it’s not you, and you bought yours first, you’ll no longer be getting first refusal on the .uk domain. I hope the decision is reversible. The original proposal was the fairest. I hope Nominet will consider returning the way the new .uk domains are developed back to the original proposal.