Later this year, the top-level domain .uk will become available for use. Currently, all web addresses using this domain include a ‘second-level ‘ domain (.co.uk, .org.uk, etc.). For the first time, we will all start seeing web addresses that simply end .uk.
For many website owners, this has prompted an obvious question: ‘will other people be able to hijack my web address?’ For example, if you want to set up a website called www.greatbusinessname.co.uk, will someone be able to snap up www.greatbusiness.uk without you having the chance to reserve it?
For the time being, the answer is ‘no’.
The first websites ending in .uk are currently available for a pre-order ahead of the June 2014 launch, according to Nominet, the registry that manages .co.uk and .org.uk domains.
This will allow buyers of the .co.uk to claim the .uk domain automatically and use the shorter web address from 10th June. Existing .co.uk owners will have the right to the shorter .uk equivalent for the first 5 years from the launch date, and will be able to decide whether they want to use it in addition to or instead of their existing domains.
For those who own the org.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .plc.uk or .ltd.uk domain names the .uk domain will also be available if the owner of the .co.uk has not claimed it already.
For those who would like to know now if they will have a right to the .uk domain, Nominet has updated its WHOIS data and it is possible to check the rights to the new .uk by using the Rights Lookup Tool. If you own the rights to the .uk you will be able to fully register it as usual when it launches on 10th June 2014.
If you decide that you want to continue with the existing domain and not buy the .uk equivalent, it will become available for someone else to register after the 10th June 2019. This will not affect your existing domain, and it will still be yours as long as it remains registered to you.
There is an opportunity for businesses, here. According to Nominet, 81% of people prefer .uk domains when searching online and the .uk domain is expected to be the most popular domain on offer. However, Nominet will still continue to offer .co.uk, .org.uk, and .me.uk. to individuals, businesses and not-for-profits in the UK.