Nominet has resurrected Direct.uk, its plan to allow people to register domain names directly under .uk.
But the proposal, which was killed off in February, has been significantly revised in response to complaints from domain investors and others.
The idea is one of a collection being announced by Nominet this afternoon.
It’s also proposing to shake up how it accredits .uk registrars and, borrowing a page from the current ICANN playbook, how .uk registrant Whois information is verified.
Second-level domains make a comeback
If the Direct.uk proposal is approved and you own a .co.uk, .me.uk or .org.uk domain name, you’ll get rights to the matching .uk name, according to Nominet COO Eleanor Bradley.
“The registrant of oldest current domain name at the third level will have first right of refusal to register that name at the second level,” she said.
When a .uk is contested by, for example, the owners of matching .co.uk and .org.uk domains, the older registration would win the name.
The clock on registration period is reset to the date of the current registration if the domain has ever dropped before, but not if it’s been transferred between registrants, she said.
This change may settle some of the concerns emerging from the domain investor community, which was outraged by Nominet’s original plan to give trademark holders first rights to .uk names.
Giving the .uk and .co.uk to different people would stand to confuse internet users, they said, not to mention devaluing their portfolios.
It wasn’t just domainers that stood to lose out under the old plan, however.
British domainer Edwin Hayward compiled a some examples of big brands that have invested in generic .co.uk domains but do not own matching trademarks, meaning they would not necessary get the second-level.
Barclays owns bank.co.uk and Kellogg owns breakfast.co.uk, for examples. Under the new Nominet proposal, it looks like these companies would get first dibs on the matching .uk addresses.
“We feel we’re responding to the feedback we heard, but it’s also our strong view that registrations at the second level are really important for what we do to maintain the relevance of .uk going forward,” Bradley said.
Plans to ramp up Whois verification
The revamped plan will also see Nominet drop its demands for mandatory extra security features under second-level .uk names.
Some critics had said that this would ghettoize .co.uk by suggesting it’s not secure.
Instead, the company is proposing blanket Whois verification for the whole of .uk — second and third-level — and a suite of optional security services to be provided in-house and via partners.
The Whois checks will take the form of email verification, in much the same way as ICANN has proposed for gTLDs in its new Registrar Accreditation agreement.
Nominet also plans to check physical mailing addresses against public databases to make sure they’re genuine. This apparently already happens to an extent.
Three tiers of registrar
The company today also unveiled plans for three types of registrar: Self-Managed, Channel Partner and Accredited Channel Partner.
Self-Managed would be domainers and big corporate users that manage their own portfolios. Channel Partners would be the vanilla registrars we know today, and Accredited would have been certified as having a certain level of security and Whois quality, among other things.
Existing registrars could do nothing and become Channel Partners, or migrate to one of the other two tiers, Bradley said.
Those in the Self-Managed and Accredited tiers would get free inter-registrant transfers, she said. Accredited registrars would also be trusted to handle their own Whois verification.
The proposals are still currently proposals, but it sounds like Nominet is determined to get it right this time.
The Direct.uk consultation is not expected to be over until November, so we’re not likely to see any movement until next year.