As of Tuesday 10 June 2014, you can register a domain name with the domain ‘.uk’, a top level domain, which is now available in addition to the slightly longer second level domains .co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk, etc.
Nominet, the not-for-profit organisation responsible for managing the .uk domain space, inaugurated the new domain with a high profile first registrant; Stephen Fry proudly launched stephenfry.uk “with a fanfare and an unfurling of the Union Flag”, grateful to be relieved of the nuisance of the three extra keystrokes in .co.uk.
The idea, it seems, is that the shorter, sharper .uk domain will increase the emphasis on the name of the website itself and will bring the UK in line with many other countries which have their own top level domains, e.g. .fr for France, .es for Spain, .cn for China. Furthermore, Nominet suggest that three quarters of British consumers would prefer a .uk domain over other domains and it is promoting the .uk domain as “the domain for a generation of digital pioneers”.
Will the shortening of a domain name by three or four characters really make a difference? Perhaps only time will tell. However, the good news is that if you already own one of the UK’s second level domains, then Nominet will reserve the top level .uk domain for you, for free, until 07:59 on 10 June 2019 (although see Nominet’s website for guidance where two different parties have the same website name with different second level domains: http://www.dotuklaunch.uk/im-existing-customer). So if you can’t decide whether to jump on this particular band wagon just now, you have 5 years to see how the .uk domain pans out and whether it really is the domain of the future before you decide to take the plunge.
One important point to consider is that regardless of whether you intend to change the domain for your website, it may nevertheless be worth adding the .uk domain to your portfolio as a protective measure. This would prevent a third party purchasing the domain (once the 5 years is up) and setting up a competing website which could potentially benefit from the goodwill in your brand.
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