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October 02, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
updated daily
to fill you in on the latest buzz going around the domain name industry. 

The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Nominet  May Offer .UK Domains That Cost 800% More Than .CO.UK - Says It's Not About the Money

When you think of British domain names you think of .co.uk, a widely used, globally recognized extension that enjoys high registration rates (more than 10 million have been registered) and commands very respectable prices on the domain aftermarket. Nominet,

the governing body for the .UK ccTLD, has used .UK efficiently and effectively in the past by sub-dividing it into second level domains .co.uk, .net.uk, .org.uk and several others (with consumers then registering third level names like internet.co.uk).  Apparently not a believer in the old axiom, "if it's not broke, don't fix it," Nominet is now considering opening up second level registrations (such as internet.uk) under a program they are calling direct.uk

Image from Bigstock

Naturally, such a development would immediately devalue the millions of .co.uk domains held by British businesses and individuals who would need to try to acquire the .uk version to protect their online identities. Unfortunately the Nominet proposal (.pdf file) provides no grandfather clause to protect those registrants - and, oh yes, even if they were successful in getting the .uk version of their .co.uk domain, they would have to pay 800% more annually for the UK version (about 20 for the .uk compared to around 2.50 for the tried and true .co.uk). 

Image from Bigstock

Nominet's Director of Operations, Eleanor Bradley, told the BBC the idea was "not a money making exercise" (perhaps the 800% rate hike just makes it look that way). Bradley said, "any additional earnings derived would be passed onto an independent trust to invest in improving internet access and security."  

Despite the high cost and necessity for so many to buy the .uk version of their names, the word "any" would seem to incredulously infer that there may not be any additional earnings from what the BBC described as "The scheme" in the first two words of their article about the proposal.

Now the word "Scheme" may not have the pejorative connotation in the Queen's English that it is does in America's admittedly adulterated version but it's not a compliment on this side of the pond where the dictionary defines scheme as "a plan for achieving something, especially something illegal or dishonest." I am certainly not saying it is either of those but I do question the wisdom and fairness of the idea.

If you are so disposed, you can question it too as Nominet has opened a public comment ("consultation") period on the proposal that is open until January 7, 2013. You can respond to the consultation either by completing an online form, by downloading the consultation and emailing your comments to direct@nominet.org.uk  or by requesting a hard copy of the consultation from direct@nominet.org.uk.

You can also view a video of Ms. Bradley explaining more about the proposal here. It is Nominet's position that offering .UK would come with several security benefits including verification to check a registrant has a UK address, daily monitoring for malicious software 

and viruses, and a digital signature which minimizes the risks of a domain name being hijacked. These measures would be supported by a trustmark to give consumers a clear sign that it was a verified domain name. Nominet said the features would be expected to "help guard against cybercrime...and play an important part in creating a trusted space for businesses and consumers."

I'm sure they will get an earful on the proposal over the next three months. I just hope their consultation doesn't follow the model we have seen so often in ICANN public commentary exercises where the public comes out overwhelmingly opposed to something, only to have ICANN go ahead and implement it anyhow. That will quickly earn you an F in Credibility 101

(Posted Oct. 1, 2012)


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