Nominet has abandoned its plans for the introduction of .uk domain names, for the time being
A proposal from Nominet to allow the use of 'second-level' domain names (such as Poundland.uk instead of Poundland.co.uk) has been shot down by the level of objections received in the course of a consultation exercise. But Nominet is considering its 'next steps' and the plan seems likely to resurface at a later stage.
At the moment, the .uk domains are organised under a hierarchical structure in which consumers and businesses register at the third level, such as example.co.uk or example.me.uk. In response to enquiries, Nominet was considering the possibility of consumers or businesses registering at the second level, such as example.uk. This would mirror the simpler structure of .com and most other country code Top Level Domains.
The plan to change seemed firmly fixed. The current hierarchical structure, inherited by Nominet in 1996, was decided on at a very early stage in the development of the UK internet and it was widely accepted that a UK registry starting from scratch would simply enable registrations directly at the second level. However, with more than 10 million registered domains under the current structure, the fear was that simply migrating all existing users into a new second-level structure could impose unacceptably high costs on registrants.
The Nominet Board approved the publication of Nominet's consultation on a set of proposals for a new service based on a second-level structure termed 'direct.uk', sitting alongside the existing .co.uk, .org.uk and so on. The proposed service included additional security features intended to enhance end-user trust and hence make the product particularly attractive to those wishing to trade online.
Following a Nominet Board meeting on 26 February, a statement was released indicating that Nominet was not proceeding with the original proposal on 'direct.uk' but will respond to feedback by looking at whether a revised proposal will address issues raised in the consultation.
The statement was widely reported as bringing the plans to change to an end but, as can be seen from the statement reproduced below, this is far from the case and the plans seem likely to be reintroduced later in the year in revised form.
'We received extensive feedback from a wide range of stakeholders including formal and informal responses. We listened and carefully considered all the points made. All responses were available to the board, along with a report on the feedback that contained a summary of responses and analysis of the data, which can be seen on our website: http://www.nominet.org.uk/how-participate/policy-development/current-policy-discussions-and-consultations
It was clear from the feedback that there was not a consensus of support for the direct.uk proposals as presented, with some concerns cutting across different stakeholder groups. Although shorter domains (e.g. nominet.uk rather than nominet.org.uk) were considered desirable, many respondents felt that the release mechanism did not give enough weighting to existing registrants, and could lead to confusion if they could not obtain the corresponding domain.
The objective of raising trust/security was welcomed, but many disagreed with the proposed approach, suggesting that standards should be raised across the whole of the namespace. On individual security features, there was qualified support for options such as DNSSEC, but scepticism about whether the proposed trustmark would be effective. There was significant support for address validation, though some would like us to do more, and others would like us to do the validation process differently. There was clear support that the sale of domain names should be only through registrars who could meet a level of service and data quality.
As a result, we are going to explore whether it is possible to present a revised proposal that meets the principles of increasing trust and security and maintaining the relevance of the .uk proposition in a changing landscape.
Over the coming months, this work will explore:
The Board plans to review progress at their June meeting, where they would decide whether there is an alternative option that addresses the concerns raised in the consultation. This would be subject to further consultation prior to any final decision being made.
Should the new shorter .uk suffix be introduced, Nominet has committed to continuing to support the existing third level domains (e.g. .co.uk).
While we need more time to work on the details of the revised proposal or release mechanism, in light of the high level of interest in this issue, we wanted to let everyone know our proposed next steps as soon as possible.'