Nominet To Release 1 and 2 Letter Domain Names

Nominet, the registry for .uk domain names, has finally announced that they are going to be releasing the vast majority of the remaining reserved domain names on their register. To you and me that means 1 and 2 letter (and number) .uk domains.

Historically, there was a small number of 1 and 2 letter .uk domains registered prior to the formation of Nominet when the .uk domain space was administered largely by academics, domains such as bt.co.uk, etc. Once Nominet was formed in the 1990’s they disallowed any 1 or 2 letter domain registrations and continued to ignore requests to open up the domain space entirely – until now.

The full list of co.uk, .org.uk, .net.uk and .me.uk domains that will be released have been published by Nominet.

I Want One of Those!

Before you start to get excited about getting hold of a piece of extremely valuable domain name real estate, let me warn you that it will be extremely difficult.

You will not only be competing with individuals and companies in the UK to get hold of one or more of the new domains, but every interested party in the world. The .uk domain type is unrestricted so anyone attempting to register one of the newly released domains will be up against a raft of very experienced and extremely well funded groups of people that specialise in these types of scenarios.

How It Should Work

Initially there will be a registration phase known as a sunrise period. This is a period where entities that believe that they hold trademark rights in a string are given the opportunity to apply for that string in the .uk domain extension of their choice and an Intellectual Property specialise will evaluate the claims and make the award of the domain to the recipient that has the correct documentation.

Nominet state on their website the following with regards to sunrise qualification –

“The Registered Rights Sunrise phase is for the holders of registered trademarks enforceable in the UK exactly matching the short domain being made available (excluding the suffix co.uk, org.uk etc) and in force as of 1 January 2008 AND who can provide evidence of bona fide use in the UK on or before 1 January 2008, to the satisfaction of an independent IP rights validation assessor.”

If the IP documentation that was sent in conjunction with the domain application is correct and the domain name is uncontested, the domain will be awarded to the successful applicant. If there are multiple applicants, the domain will then go to auction between all of the parties that have been deemed to have rights to the domain.

The remainder of the domains that are left will be launched in open registration during a landrush period.

How It Will Likely Work

I’ve been involved in working out operational strategy with domain name launches from an ICANN registrar perspective on many occasions and I’ve seen numerous sunrise periods at first hand so I’m extremely familiar with some of the nuances involved and most of the problems that Nominet will be facing with this launch, and let me tell you it will be an absolute minefield.

Every single sunrise period I have been involved with has included some form of loophole in the registry terms and conditions for registration that can be exploited by potential registrants – I doubt this sunrise period will be any different regardless of all the good intentions in the world from Nominet.

I would say that every single string in .co.uk and .org.uk will be contested in the sunrise period. This is not to say that there will be correct supporting documentation for every string, rather it will be a case that people will simply apply regardless and try their luck. Nominet state that the IP verification fee will be £37 (+ VAT). This is a tiny amount when considered what a 1 or 2 character .uk domain would be worth in the sales after market to a successful applicant.

Due to the likely huge numbers of bogus applications, the sunrise period will likely continue longer than planned and there will certainly be a large number of legal challenged from disgruntled unsuccessful applicants.

By the time that the landrush comes for open registration, I would be surprised if there are more than a handful of domain names in .co.uk or .org.uk left for punters to register. The domains that are available will have been noted by all of the specialist domain catchers well in advance and orders will have been placed for themselves and/or their customers so that within seconds of the registry releasing the domains, they will all become registered (providing that the registry software doesn’t fall over due to the load placed upon it, which I have seen a few times at other registries, naming no names).

We’ll keep you informed how things progress…

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