Nominet Consultations and Mince Pies

Nominet is going ahead with its plans for shorter domain names, although a consultation appears to have produced a two-thirds majority against. I am sure that they wanted it realIy.

By: Julie Thompson

As we reported on 20 November, the shorter .uk web addresses plan has been revived by Nominet. This comes as no surprise since it was clear from the Nominet statements following earlier consultations on the original plan, which met with responses ranging from frosty to uneasy, that Nominet was firmly committed to its implementation in one form or another. See our coverage at the time here.

We now have Nominet’s chief executive, Lesley Cowley, saying that they are going ahead with the plan to allow users to buy ‘example.uk’ etc. (I am not sure how Example feels about this.) Some of you may be surprised by this because the second round of consultation produced responses in which two-thirds of respondents were against the proposal. It reminds me firmly of that moment, which will no doubt be repeated a million times throughout the UK in coming weeks, when you are offered a mince pie and refuse it (‘I’m full, thanks’), only to be offered it again (‘it’s home-made’), and again (‘Ralph loves them’), and again (‘it’s Xmas’) and again (‘I’ll warm it up’) until the offeror transmogrifies into Mrs Doyle from Father Ted (‘go on, go on, go on’) - and you eat mince pie. Though to be fair, it is not quite like that as Nominet are going to charge for the mince pie and have overwhelming evidence that some people (even some consultees) do want a mince pie so obviously, ergo, QED and that’s that.

Speaking as one who usually refuses the mince pie when really wanting one, I am not one to condemn Nominet. I am in fact appalled by the response of those persons, as reported by Nomensa in their final report on the consultation exercise, who ‘remain entirely cynical about the consultation process’ and suggested that ‘Nominet are pushing through the proposal regardless’. Nobody loves a cynic. I say that they should just eat the pie and enjoy it.

I asked Nominet to comment on the suggestion that the consultees were against the proposals and Nominet is ignoring that. I also sought an explanation of what to my mind seemed a strange aspect of the plans, namely that, where one person holds 'example.co.uk' and another holds 'example.org.uk', the shorter domain will be offered to the commercial entity with the .co.uk registered name. I asked what possible justification there could be for giving the commercial entity preferential treatment over, say, an NGO.

I received a prompt response referring me to a Q&A available on the Nominet web site and an offer of further clarification. It was suggested that the answer to my concerns could be found in the following parts of the Q&A. I will let you judge whether this really amounts to an answer or is really just a Mrs Doyle moment.

What did the consultation feedback say?

In contrast to our wider survey – where 72% of businesses and 50% of consumers thought example.uk should be an option, against 2% and 3% respectively who disagreed – approximately two thirds of consultation responses were against the proposals put forward to consultation.
We decided to make a number of significant changes in response, such as introducing a free five year reservation period, parity pricing and offering .co.uk holders the opportunity to secure the equivalent example.uk domain name.
For more information, see Registration of second level domain names.

What evidence do you have that people support this change?

As part of our market research, we spoke to businesses and internet users to understand their point of view. When we asked a representative sample of business decision-makers, 72% of them thought that example.uk should be an option (only 2% disagreed). In a survey of consumers, 50% thought that example.uk should be an option (only 3% disagreed). A sample study of Nominet customers found 70% reacted positively to the example.uk concept.

What evidence do you have that second-level domain registrations will appeal to web users?

Our research reflected both that the shorter .uk domain is attractive, and .co.uk is and remains popular, which reinforced our view that adding additional choice to the .uk portfolio would mean we could offer an attractive .uk option for a broader range of registrants.
In a survey of business decision makers, 58% thought that example.uk would be more attractive to UK web users than example.co.uk (9% disagreed). When we asked consumers what would be more attractive, 36% thought that example.uk would be more attractive to UK web users than example.co.uk (9% disagreed).
Research targeting ‘digital natives’ – tech savvy early adopters – also showed the appeal of second-level domain registrations, with 28% of businesses and 33% of individuals showing a clear preference for ‘example.uk’, while 16% (for both businesses and individuals) showed a clear preference for the more familiar ‘example.co.uk’.
With second-level domain registrations, we’ll have choices available that appeal to both groups, helping us keep people in, and attract people to, the .uk namespace.

When there are ‘clashes’, why are you prioritising .co.uk?

This was one of the most common suggestions in the consultation feedback we received, and we have come to agree that this is the best option, in that it is fair to as many people as possible, will minimise consumer confusion, and best reflects the perceptions and expectations within the domain name market. Reasons for this include:
• The vast majority of registrations in the .uk namespace are .co.uk – 93% compared to 7% for all others (.org.uk, .me.uk, etc) combined. This suggests .co.uk has come to be seen as the ‘default’ suffix for many UK businesses and consumers.
• The second-largest group (6%) are .org.uk registrations, and we understand that many .org.uk sites place a specific value on including the .org, as it indicates a ‘special’ status as a non-commercial organisation.


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