Get ready for a backlash — Nominet has committed to start offering second-level domain names under .uk for the first time.
Starting next year, you’ll be able to register example.uk, rather than only third-level names such as example.co.uk and example.org.uk.
Concerns were raised that allowing .uk would allow names to fall into the hands of the wrong people, and that the cost to UK business would be prohibitively high.
“We all want shorter, snappier names,” CEO Lesley Cowley said. “But we appreciate that not everyone shares that view so as a board we had to very carefully consider what’s in the best interest of the public.”
Nominet has introduced a few new ideas that seem to be designed to address these criticisms.
First, every owner of a .co.uk domain name will be given a free five-year reservation on the matching .uk SLD. If you own example.co.uk, you’ll have five years to decide whether to pay for the .uk version.
Cowley told DI that Nominet’s market research suggested that UK businesses repaint their trucks and get new stationery every five years anyway, so the pressure to rebrand around a new domain would be alleviated.
“There was some concern that businesses would feel forced to register a .uk,” she said. “We would not want that to be the case. We want people to consider in their own time whether they want to move.”
In cases where matching .co.uk and .org.uk (or .me.uk etc) domains are owned by different people, the .co.uk gets the free reservation and the .org.uk is locked out for five years.
Where there’s a .org.uk with no matching .co.uk, the .org.uk registrant gets the free reservation, Cowley said.
Domains registered prior to October 28 2013 — when the Nominet board voted on the proposal — will qualify for the free reservation, as will domains registered after that date when there are no colliding third-level domains.
The price for a .uk SLD is to be set at £3.50 for a one-year reg and £2.50 for one year of a multi-year registration. That’s the same as .uk wholesale prices today.
Why do it at all?
While Cowley admitted that .uk registration growth has been slowing recently, something being experienced by many ccTLDs and gTLDs, she said the main reason for the SLD change was demand.
Nominet has done some market research showing only 2% of UK businesses do not want the SLD option in .uk, compared to 72% that do, according to the company.
“People have been saying for some years that it would be good to drop the ‘co’ in .uk,” said Cowley. “It’s clunky. The French and Germans manage to have direct in .fr and .de, so why can’t we do that as well?”
Having spent the last 36 hours crunching ICANN’s lists of almost 10 million new gTLD name collisions, the DI PRO collisions database is back online, and we can start reporting some interesting facts.
First, while we reported yesterday that 1,318 new gTLD applicants will be asked to block a total of 9.8 million unique domain names, the number of distinct second-level strings involved is somewhat smaller.
It’s 6,806,050, according to our calculations, still a bewilderingly high number.
The most commonly blocked string, as expected, is “www”. It’s on the block-lists for 1,195 gTLDs, over 90% of the total.
Second is “2010″. I currently have no explanation for this, but I’m wondering if it’s an artifact of the years of Day In The Life data upon which ICANN based its lists.
Protocol-related strings such as “wpad” and “isatap” also rank highly, as do strings matching popular TLDs such as “com”, “org”, “uk” and “de”. Single-character strings are also very popular.
The brand with the most blocks (free trademark protection?) is unsurprisingly Google.
The string “google” appears as an exact match on 930 gTLDs’ lists. It appears as a substring of 1,235 additional blocked strings, such as “google-toolbar” and “googlemaps”.
Facebook, Yahoo, Gmail, YouTube and Hotmail also feature in the top 100 blocked brands.
DI PRO subscribers can search for strings that interest them, discovering how many and which gTLDs they’re blocked in, using the database.
Here’s a table of the top 50 blocked strings.
The Belgian government has denied claims that the city of Spa tried to shake down new gTLD applicants for money in exchange for not objecting to their .spa applications.
The Belgian Governmental Advisory Committee representative said this afternoon that Belgium was “extremely unhappy” that the “disrespectful allusions” got an airing during a meeting with the ICANN board.
He was responding directly to a question asked during a Sunday session by ICANN director Chris Disspain, who, to be fair, didn’t name either the government or the gTLD. He had said:
I understand there is at least one application, possibly more, where a government or part a government is negotiating with the applicant in respect to receive a financial benefit from the applicant. I’m concerned about that and I wondered if the GAC had a view as to whether such matters were appropriate.
While nobody would talk on the record, asking around the ICANN 48 meeting here in Buenos Aires it became clear that Disspain was referring to Belgium and .spa.
It was not clear whether he was referring to Donuts or to Asia Spa and Wellness Promotion Council, which have both applied for the string.
The string “spa” was not protected by ICANN’s rules on geographic names, but the GAC in April advised ICANN not to approve the applications until governments had more time to reach a decision.
My inference from Disspain’s question was that Belgium was planning to press for a GAC objection to .spa unless its city got paid, which could be perceived as an abuse of power.
Nobody from the GAC answered the question on Sunday, but Belgium today denied that anything inappropriate was going on, saying Disspain’s assertion was “factually incorrect”.
There is a contract between Spa and an applicant, he confirmed, but he said that “no money will flow to the city of Spa”.
“A very small part of the profits of the registry will go to the community served by .spa,” he said.
This side-deal does not appear to be a public document, but the Belgian rep said that it has been circulated to GAC members for transparency purposes.
There are several applicants whose strings appeared on ICANN’s protected geo names list that have been required to get letters of non-objection from various countries.
Tata Group, for example, needed permission from Morocco for .tata, while TUI had to go to Burkina Faso for .tui. Both are the names of provinces in those countries.
It’s not publicly known how these letters of non-objection were obtained, and whether any financial benefit accrued to the government as a result.
Donuts had seven new gTLDs added to the DNS root zone today.
The strings are: .diamonds, .tips, .photography, .directory, .kitchen, .enterprises and .today.
The nic.tld domains in each are already resolving, redirecting users to Donuts’ official site at donuts.co.
There are now 31 live new gTLDs, 26 of which belong to Donuts subsidiaries.
Top Level Domain Holdings will announce its go-to-market strategy — including .tv-style premium names pricing and its launch as a registrar — at an event at ICANN 48 in Buenos Aires this evening.
The company, which is involved in 60 new gTLD applications as applicant and 75 as a back-end provider, is also revealing a novel pre-registration clearinghouse that will be open to almost all applicants.
First off, it’s launching Minds + Machines Registrar, an affiliated registrar through which it will sell domain names in its own and third-party TLDs.
Instead of a regular name suggestion tool, it’s got a browsable directory of available names, something that I don’t recall seeing at a registrar before.
Searching “murphy.casa”, I was offered lots of other available domains in the “English Surnames” category, for example.
Until TLDH actually has some live gTLDs, the site will be used to take paid-for pre-registrations, or “Priority Reservations” using a new service that TLDH is calling the Online Priority Enhanced Names database, which painfully forces the acronym “OPEN”.
Pre-registrations in .casa, .horse and .cooking will cost €29.95 ($40), the same as the expected regular annual reg fee. It’s first-come first-served — no auctions — and the fee covers the first year of registration.
If the name they pay for is claimed by a trademark holder during the mandatory Sunrise period, or is on the gTLD’s collisions block-list, registrants get a full refund, TLDH CEO Antony Van Couvering said.
He added that any applicant for a new gTLD that is uncontested and has an open registration policy will be able to plug their gTLDs into the OPEN system.
PeopleBrowsr is already on the system with its uncontested .ceo and .best gTLDs, priced at $99.95.
No other registrars are signed up yet but Van Couvering reckons it might be attractive to registrars that have already taken large amounts of no-fee expressions of interest.
TLDH plans to charge registries and registrars a €1 processing fee (each, so TLDH gets €2) for each pre-registration that is sold through the system.
For “premium” names, the company has decided to adopt the old .tv model of charging high annual fees instead of a high initial fee followed by the standard renewal rate.
Van Couvering said a domain that might have been priced at $100,000 to buy outright might instead be sold for $10,000 a year.
“Because we want to encourage usage, we don’t want to charge a huge upfront fee,” he said. “We’d really like to make premium names available to people who will actually use them.”
Looking at the aforementioned English Surnames category on the new M+M site, I see that jackson.casa will cost somebody €5,179.95 a year, whereas nicholson.casa will cost the basic €29.95.
Two other new gTLDs, .menu and .build, have already revealed variable pricing strategies, albeit slightly different.