.UK domains are coming – does it matter?

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For many years, website owners in the UK have had a choice of domain names.   Commercial companies registered domain names in the form  myname.co.uk  domains, while non-profits were encouraged to choose .org.uk, universities branded themselves .ac.uk and schools had addresses in the form myschool.sch.uk

But all that is changing.   Nominet, the organisation responsible for managing the registration of all UK domains, have decided it’s time to let people do away with .co.uk or .org.uk, and register just myname.uk.  You can read more about this here.

So what does this mean if you already have a website and a domain name?   Well, if you are happy with your myname.co.uk domain, you don’t have do to anything.   You’ll have the choice to register myname.uk – in fact, Nominet have made it easy for you to protect your brand, and have probably already reserved your right to the equivalent .uk domain to your .co.uk for you.

So once the new names come out  in June,  you can either grab your new .uk and keep it as a backup, or switch to using it,  or leave it for five years knowing that nobody else will be able to grab it as you have first dibs.

Annoyance for Non-profits

The situation is slightly less cheery for non-profits who own .org.uk but not .co.uk domains. If you are a non-profit running a website with your myorganisation.org.uk domain, and someone else has the myorganisation.co.uk, then the owner of the .co.uk gets the rights to the new .uk domain.   This applies even if the .co.uk isn’t being used and is just parked, showing cheap adverts or not working at all – a .co.uk registration trumps a .org.uk registration in the queue for rights.

Does any of this actually matter?  

Many businesses currently trading with .co.uk domains will feel that they need to buy the .uk as well, just to protect their brands.  This means increased registration costs, although the cost of one additional domain is hardly going to break the bank.

Some Internet users are almost certainly going to get confused – was there a .co. in that web address I saw or not?  Some people will no doubt end up at the wrong website.   But this is a less important fear for any business with a reasonable presence in Google search results.  Typing in the web address is a much less common approach to navigating the web than it used to be, most people are perhaps more likely to try a search for the company or organisation name than to type the entire domain name.

With this in mind, I would recommend at the moment against switching your existing website over to a .uk address, if you are already using a .co.uk.  New domains almost always have less search engine presence than old ones, and switching domains generally means some lost traffic, even if you do it absolutely by the book, and have redirects set up.

If you already have a .co.uk domain, then by all means grab the equivalent .uk for brand protection if you want, but don’t switch to it as your primary domain.

If you don’t have a domain of any kind yet, and are just starting out on your website adventure – well, a .uk domain might just be worth a try!  But personally, I think I’d want to register the .co.uk as well.  .co.uk has a lot of history behind it, and it’s going to take a while for the British public to really get used to the new name format.