Rules for acquisition of second-level domains newly on sale for the .uk domain turn out to discriminate against the most worthy causes. A Twitter discussion involving charity employee Ben Furber has discovered that rules associated with the domain will give preference to those owing .co.uk domains, locking owners of .org.uk domains out of registration of their brand as a .uk domain for five years, according to details on the Nominet web site. The new .uk domain is being launched by Nominet this June.
It's already bad enough that brand managers are about to be faced with the need to waste money on domains they don't really need in order to protect their brand -- a move informed perhaps by the music industry who long ago realised there was more money to be made by bringing out new formats regularly and re-selling bestsellers than by promoting new talent.
But under this policy, UK charities can't get final resolution of their domain conflicts for another 5 years. From June, it will be possible to register directly in the .uk top-level domain. So for example, it will become possible to buy the "asthma.uk" domain on 10 June 2014. But according to Nominet's rules, if the equivalent .co.uk domain was already registered before 28 October 2013, the .uk domain cannot be registered for five years even if you owned the .org.uk domain by that date, since it is reserved for the owner of the .co.uk domain preferentially. In the case of the Asthma UK charity, the .co.uk is owned by a domain squatter displaying advertisments on a generic landing page. As such, they are ineligible to register asthma.uk until June 2019.
The mental health charity Mind is also affected by these rules. Chris Cox, Digital Communications Manager at Mind, said:
“The restrictions on .uk domain names could impede Mind’s ability to expand its reach, to provide vital mental health information to those who need it the most. We have worked incredibly hard in recent years to grow Mind’s online presence, developing outstanding resources which are a lifeline for many. It is disappointing to learn that we might be prevented from continuing on this trajectory in coming years.
“We are confused by Nominet’s approach, on the one hand supporting charitable projects through the grant giving arm of the organisation Nominet Trust, whilst simultaneously limiting our potential for progress. It seems a contradictory move that sadly could disadvantage the organisations it aims to support.”
Not everyone has a problem. Groups like the Alzheimer's Society or the PDSA who already own the .co.uk will be able to buy the .uk. But a Nominet spokesperson admitted to me that nearly half of the owners of .org.uk domains -- 47% -- are likely to be affected.
Nominet stand behind their rules, and do not appear to have an effective exception process. They told me the normal dispute resolution procedures would apply. Charities affected will either need to pay off the owners of newly acquired domains using their brand, or wait until 2019 and hope things will work out OK.