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Over 7,500 .uk cybersquatting cases heard

Kevin Murphy, November 7, 2011, Domain Registries

Nominet is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of its Dispute Resolution Service this week, saying that it has settled over 7,500 cybersquatting cases.

Based on a £15,000 estimated cost of legal action, the .uk registry reckons DRS has saved companies about £110 million ($176 million) over the last decade.

DRS has similarities but differences to UDRP. Notably, DRS has a formal mediation phase and an appeals process for registrants who believe their domains were wrongly taken from them.

The .uk zone currently has fewer than 10 million registrations, compared to the 135 million gTLD domains to which the UDRP applies.

WIPO and the National Arbitration Forum have settled about 35,000 UDRP complaints over the last decade. With that in mind, cybersquatting enforcement in .uk appears to have been relatively heavy.

Short .uk domain landrush opens

Kevin Murphy, May 23, 2011, Domain Services

Nominet opened the landrush phase of its one and two-character .uk domain names within the last hour.

The landrush will see the remaining 2,640 super-short domains that have not already been claimed by trademark holders start to become available.

It costs £10 ($16) to apply, plus the cost of the registration. All contested domains will head to auction, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Nominet Trust.

The available domains are all in the .co.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk and .org.uk spaces. Restrictions may apply – for example .me.uk domains are reserved for individuals.

The landrush will run until June 15. Uncontested domains will be allocated June 23, at which point all unclaimed domains will be released into the available pool. The auctions will kick off July 20.

Six short .uk domains sold for $40,000

Kevin Murphy, April 15, 2011, Domain Sales

Nominet has auctioned off six one and two-letter .uk domain names for a total of almost £24,000 ($40,000).

The domains were all sold to trademark holders, for an average of £4,000 ($6,500) each, according to the auction house, NFPAS Auctions.

The domain e.co.uk went to E! Entertainment Television, while u.co.uk was sold to Ubrands.

Of the contested two-letter domains, aa.co.uk was won by American Airlines, presumably beating out other qualified bidders such as the Automobile Association.

Oddly, aa.org.uk went to Andrews & Arnold, an ISP, which already owns aa.net.uk.

Finally, lv.co.uk went to the insurance company Liverpool Victoria, which already owns lv.com, and cc.co.uk went to Country Casuals, a women’s clothing retailer.

A second auction among brand owners, expected to be similarly small, will be held a month from now. The proceeds of both go to the Nominet Trust.

With only a couple hundred single and double character .uk names currently accounted for, hundreds remain for the next stage of the release: landrush.

Nominet plans to announce the details of that phase on Monday.

Nominet gives away 79 more super-short .uk names

Kevin Murphy, April 13, 2011, Domain Sales

Nominet has handed out more single and double-character .uk domain names to holders of intellectual property rights.

The 79 assignments include 4.co.uk, a.co.uk, c.co.uk, j.co.uk and u.co.uk, as well as dozens of two-letter combinations such as bt.org.uk and bq.co.uk.

The domains were given out as the latest stage of Nominet’s roll-out of short domains, to “unregistered rights holders”. Another 99 were assigned to registered rights holders in February.

Where the organization has received more than one application for a domain, it will go to auction, with the proceeds aiding the charitable Nominet Trust.

Nominet says only a “small number” of domains are heading to auction. Whatever remains will be released in a landrush, details of which will be announced on Monday.

Of the domains released so far, o.co.uk, which I previously speculated would go to Overstock, the retailer that recently rebranded as o.co, has not yet been claimed.

99 super-short .uk domains registered

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2011, Domain Sales

Nominet, the .uk registry, has allocated 99 one and two-letter .uk domain names to trademark holders including the Financial Times and Manchester United.

Most of the companies successfully applying for short .co.uk, .org.uk and .net.uk domains under Nominet’s recently closed sunrise period are household names.

Most also chose to acquire both .org.uk and .co.uk variants of their trademark. Only ten of the single-letter and two of the single-number options were claimed. Yahoo managed to get y.co.uk.

Overstock.com, which is currently branding itself as o.co, did not receive o.co.uk, despite having a trademark on the term, possibly for the reasons I outlined here.

One of the big winners appears to be a domainer. Scott Jones acquired 3.org.uk, s.co.uk, s.org.uk, pc.co.uk and pc.org.uk.

Nominet said: “A small number of contested domains will be involved in an auction phase to determine the successful registrant.”

The first sunrise was for owners of UK registered trademarks. The next round, set to kick off February 14, is for owners of “unregistered” rights.

The full list of domains registered can be downloaded here.

UK domain chief awarded OBE

Kevin Murphy, December 31, 2010, Domain Registries

Lesley Cowley, chief executive of .uk registry Nominet, has been awarded the OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List, the company has just announced.

She joins singer Annie Lennox, astronaut Piers Sellers, actor Burt Kwuok and hundreds of others in receiving the award this year.

For non-Brits, the OBE, short for Officer of the Order of the British Empire, is a fairly prestigious award dedicated to recognizing public service.

Cowley’s is “for services to the Internet and e.Commerce”.

Some sort of nod was inevitable, given Nominet’s key role in keeping the UK internet running, but I’m slightly surprised it has come so early in her career.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to call her “ma’am” if you see her at the next ICANN meeting, but she will be able to order new business cards with “OBE” after her name.

The full list of New Years Honours recipients can be downloaded from Direct.gov.uk.

Cops seize 1,800 domains in 2010

Kevin Murphy, December 27, 2010, Domain Policy

Nominet helped the UK’s Metropolitan Police seize 1,800 .uk domains during 2010, many of them just prior to Christmas, according to the Met.

The domains all allegedly hosted “bogus” sites that were “either fraudulent or advertising counterfeit goods which failed to materialise”, the Met said.

While a statement from the Police Central e-Crime Unit said it had worked with “registrars” to shut down the domains, it also credited Nominet a role:

The sites are run by organised criminal networks and thought to generate millions of pounds which can then be used to fund further illicit activity.

The preventative action was carried out in partnership with Nominet – the public body for UK domain name registrations – and involved a concentrated effort around the festive period; a time when we traditionally see an upsurge in this type of crime as fraudsters take advantage of the increased number of online consumers.

It’s not the first time the UK police, with Nominet’s aid, have swooped to shut down such domains.

In December 2009, a similar announcement from the PCeU, which said that 1,219 domains had been turned off, was greeted less than warmly by some.

Web hosting companies reportedly often ask for a court order before shutting down sites. When VeriSign helped US law enforcement seize 80+ domains in November, it did so subject to a court order.

It seems domains in the UK may not be subject to such judicial oversight.

Nominet chief executive Lesley Cowley, discussing the December 2009 seizures in a recent interview, would only tell me that the police had “instructed” Nominet to shut down the domains.

According to The Register’s coverage, Nominet used the lack of authentic Whois data as legal cover for those seizures.

But there is a new Nominet policy development process under way, initiated by the UK Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which seeks to amend the standard .uk registrant agreement to give a stronger contractual basis for seizing domains when they appear to break UK law.

Was this the first-ever .uk domain?

Kevin Murphy, November 18, 2010, Domain Registries

Last night I attended a party, held by Nominet at the swanky Somerset House in London, celebrating 25 years of .uk.

During opening remarks, chief executive Lesley Cowley said that Nominet still hasn’t tracked down the first-ever registered .uk domain name. I reported on this for The Register a couple of weeks ago.

After doing a little digging, I think I may have a strong contender.

ucl.ac.uk

This is the domain for University College London. There are a few reasons to believe ucl.ac.uk could lay claim to be the “first” .uk domain.

It’s well known that the .uk namespace predates Nominet by over a decade. Before Nominet was formed, registrations were handled by a Naming Committee.

According to the Milton Mueller book “Ruling The Root“, and various other sources, the .uk top-level domain was originally delegated to UCL’s Andrew McDowell. This probably happened in 1984.

Digging through some old mailing list archives, I’ve found McDowell making references to running ucl.ac.uk and cambridge.ac.uk, albeit on a test basis, as early as June 1985.

The namedroppers mailing list back then was used by academics to test their newfangled domain name system, so it’s a good place to look for firsts. I’ve mentioned it before, in this blog’s inaugural post.

In one message sent to namedroppers on June 24, 1985, McDowell writes about running .uk, ucl.ac.uk and cambridge.ac.uk on his test-only name servers. The email was sent from a .arpa address.

On July 4, 1985, he sent his first email to the list from a ucl.ac.uk email address, which suggests that the domain was up and running at that time.

That’s 20 days before .uk was delegated, according to the official IANA record.

For this reason I think ucl.ac.uk may have a strong claim to be the first .uk domain.

However, it’s possible the reality may be rather less exciting (yes, even less exciting than something already not particularly exciting).

Anonymous Coward comments posted on The Register are perhaps not the most reliable source of information, but this guy seems to know what he’s talking about:

I believe .uk was the third top level domain to be established after .edu and .us. This predated dns and would have been in 1982 or 3.

.uk was run with a hosts.txt file and the first sub-domains being either ucl or mod.

dns came in in 85 or 86 and the first sub-domains in that were copied from the UK NRS from the X.25 world (ac.uk, co.uk and mod.uk) so there probably wasn’t a first dns sub-domain for uk.

This work was done by UCL CS and at least 2 people directly involved are still there.

If that is to be believed, it looks like there may have been a “first batch” of .uk names that were put into the DNS, rather than a single domain name.

However, given that UCL was managing the system at the time, I’d hazard a guess that ucl.ac.uk was probably the first to be used.

Nominet study reveals advertisers’ favorite TLDs

Kevin Murphy, November 4, 2010, Domain Registries

Domains ending in .uk are more popular among advertisers in the UK than .com domains, but not massively so, according to research published today by Nominet, the .uk registry.

A study of 10,000 UK ads found that 65% of them contained a URL, and that 55% of those was a .uk, compared to 42% that were .com names.

I find that first number quite surprising – why are 35% of advertisers not doing something so simple and risk-free as including their domains in their ads? It doesn’t seem to make much sense.

The break-down between .uk and .com surprises me less. In my experience on both sides of the Atlantic, fewer Brits than Americans think of .com as a purely US-oriented TLD.

We share a language after all, and the pervasiveness of the phrase “dot-com” in the late 1990s saw many big British online brands, such as LastMinute.com, opt for generic domains.

Interestingly, Nominet also managed to uncover a correlation between how business-focussed a publication was and use of .com domains over .uk.

Computer Weekly, a trade publication, had .uk addresses in only 33% of its ads, while Computer Shopper, a consumer publication, had them 64% of the time.

At the two extremes, news weekly The Economist had .coms in 82% of its ads, while Auto Express ads were 80% .uk addresses. The average across all magazines was 60% in favor of .uk.

It’s the most comprehensive study of .com versus .uk I’ve read, containing far too many statistics to enumerate here, but it’s also a quick read. It can be downloaded here.

One-letter .uk domains coming December 1

Kevin Murphy, November 3, 2010, Domain Registries

Nominet will start taking applications for one and two-letter .co.uk domains next month, starting with a sunrise period for trademark holders.

The registry said 2,831 previously reserved names are being released under its phased process, which also extends to the .org.uk, .net.uk and .me.uk domains.

Nominet’s decision to hold a sunrise – actually it’s planning two – is quite unusual. Other TLDs that have released super-short domains usually carry out an RFP process first.

The first sunrise, for companies with “registered rights” ends January 17. The second sunrise, for those with “unregistered rights” will start at some point after that.

Domains will be auctioned in the event of competing successful applications, with the profits going to the Nominet Trust.

There’s still no firm date on the open-doors landrush phase, in which registrants without trademarks will be able to bid on the domains.