Laser Technik Ltd
What are Bare .uk domain names?
A few years ago Nominet announced that a variant of .co.uk domain names without the .co element would become available. Initially owners of a .co.uk domain name would have the exclusive right to purchase the variant of that name without the .co element. That right expired in 2019.
Example: The owner of honest-john-motors.co.uk had the exclusive right to buy honest-john-motors.uk without the .co element, this is known as a bare .uk name.
To avoid names falling into the wrong hands LaserTechnik bought the bare .UK variant of most client’s domain name. We made no charge for the first year, if you explicitly choose to keep the name beyond 2019 the renewals are chargeable. We can drop the name on request should you feel we are being over-cautious.
We configure bare .UK names to route to a holding page and our advice is that you should not use the name but hold it “defensively” to prevent it falling into the wrong hands to your disadvantage.
If you would prefer to have the name routed to your web site, please ask (no charge) but please read on for an explanation of our reasoning…
One small clarification, it’s common to speak of “buying a domain name”, in actuality names are leased on an annual basis, if not renewed they become available for anyone else to “buy”.
Until 28 October 2013 all UK domains had to include an element between the name and .uk – so in addition to the well known .co.uk (intended for commercial use) there are .org.uk (for non-commercial organisations) .ac.uk (academic institutions) and several others.
The .uk element is known as a Top Level Domain name (TLD).
The .co, .org, .ac element is a second level name and the honest-john-motors element a third level name.
By far the most widely used second level .uk name is .co
Why the change?
- Most other TLDs don’t require a second level name so removing that requirement brings UK in-line with most other countries.
- The change shortens names by 3 characters.
- It almost doubles the number of .uk names available (in theory).
- Bare .uk is limited to those with a UK address (in theory).
To expand on item 3: it’s highly likely (and strongly advisable) that businesses owning a .co.uk domain name will buy the bare .uk variant to prevent the variant being snapped up by a scammer or competitor.
The result is little increase in the meaningful availability of unique names.
Item 4: anyone can register .co.uk, but bare .uk registrants “must have a presence in the UK.” Theoretically this is “better”, for example Chinese companies have been registering .co.uk names to get the benefits of appearing to be UK based. However I have yet to see any evidence of Nominet making serious effort in that respect.
Should you retain the bare name?
The simple answer is “yes” but there’s a cost, an annual renewal fee with a retail cost which depends on the added value features like management, email, DNS and web routing.
The cost of a domain name is insignificant when compared with the cost of preventing a competitor diluting your brand or the cost and hassle of dealing with a scammer or a competitor passing themselves off as your business.
If you hold, as is very common, many .co.uk names to protect variants, trading names and brand names the annual cost may start to look high. (Example: Unilever has many thousands to cover all their current and inactive brand names). If cost is an issue the pragmatic approach is just to protect the most valuable names.
A cynic might take the view that allowing bare .uk names is a bit of a scam on the part of Nominet (Nominet is the overall controller of .uk names). At a stroke they double their income for barely any effort on their part. They could (should?) instead just automatically give .uk name holders the corresponding .uk for perhaps just a small price increase. Nominet has a track record – already highly profitable they increased their prices by 50% in 2016.
Many organisations have chosen to buy the name defensively but not to use it (e.g. bbc.uk, ibm.uk, tesco.uk: all purchased but not used at time of writing).
How should the name be configured/used?
There are four options:
- Have all traffic addressed to honest-john-motors.uk routed to the current web site at honest-john-motors.co.uk
- Do not actively use the name but route it to a holding page or make it return a “not found” or error page.
Users are familiar with .co.uk (and .com) and some are suspicious of anything else. Bare .uk only serves to confuse the issue. As an example, HSBC caused some consternation in 2017 when users who’d accessed HSBC.co.uk found themselves redirected to the unfamiliar HSBC.ukThe only real benefit is saving 3 keystrokes – big deal!
- If you do hold the name it’s a trivial task to switch to option 1. On the other hand if you chose to use option 1, it will become known to users, there may be external links routing to it so switching back to option 2 could present problems.
- Make the bare .uk name your primary address for web and email and .co.uk just redirect to the new variant.
- You are making a long-term commitment to hold both variants
- You may need to rebuild your prominence in Google search results
- There’s a risk of difficulties for people who already know your web and email addresses
- Any links to your site from elsewhere will break
- There’d be a need for changes to web site, printed stationery etc
- Special situations: there are always exceptions, get in touch to discuss….
I strongly favour the second option following the example of the BBC, IBM and Tesco.
If I hold multiple .co.uk names do I need to buy the variant for all of them?
Some years ago there was understood to be an advantage from having multiple names pointed at the same web site, it might appear twice in search engine results and so deliver more visitors. With a few exceptions, that is no longer the case.
honest-john-motors.co.uk might benefit from owning honest-john-motors.com, because some users will get the name wrong but will still get to the same web site.
On the other hand if John also owned honest-john-used-motors.co.uk, the justification for owning either that name or the bare .uk variant are now rather more flimsy.
How might a scammer use a bare .uk name to my disadvantage?
We can only speculate. What we do know is that dropped .uk names are being bought up in massive numbers https://www.theregister.com/2020/01/31/uk_address_bulgarians/ Surely they must have a plan to monetise them somehow.
I’ve come across a few examples of a long existing scam being extended to include .uk names.
The “old” scam was an email proposing that you buy the .cn (China) variant of your name.
A Google search for “chinese domain name scam” will find plenty of examples and explanations of how the scam works.
The bare .uk domain name scammers are doing the same.