Is Nominet using .uk as a cash cow?

Now I know that the title is a bit controversial, for me at least. Read on, and you’ll see what I’m getting at.

But first, an extract from what it says on Nominet’s web site about .uk domain names:

“We’re the trusted guardian of the UK domain name space, providing millions of people and businesses worldwide with their perfect domain name ending in .uk.”

Remember that bit.

History lesson

Back in June 2014, Nominet opened up the .uk space to domain registrations. Previously you had to be a .co.uk, .org.uk or .me.uk as an individual (yes, I know that there are other second-level domains). Among the handful of top-level .uk domains at the time were parliament.uk. bl.uk and mod.uk, so this was quite a big thing.

Sensibly, to give current owners like bbc.co.uk and cipr.co.uk a chance to get their .uk equivalents, what’s called a sunrise period was opened, with a .uk equivalent being held for the owner of the .co.uk address. The sunrise period lasts five years until 10 June 2019.

I’ll repeat that in capitals for the hard of believing: FIVE YEARS. When .eu was launched across the European Union, the full sunrise period lasted six months.

‘Trusted guardian’

I thought I’d register a short url, so that I can create a bit.ly- or tiny.url-style service for myself. I played around with some random three-letter combinations and found none of those I looked at were available.

For example: mwt.uk (my late dad’s initials, if you were wondering). This domain is reserved on behalf of the owner of mwt.co.uk. Follow the link to that site, and you’ll see the ‘Buy this domain’ link top-right. That’s because it’s ‘owned’ by an outfit called Parking Crew, who will release it for a fee. Another (non-.uk) domain I looked at was registered in China and Sedo (the registrar) suggested $90 as a minimum bid. Ouch.

So: if I wanted to get hold of mwt.uk I would need to:

  • put in a bid to Parking Crew – say $100 (oh, and give them my phone number – not bloody likely)
  • register mwt.co.uk (which I don’t want or need)
  • claim ownership of mwt.uk on the basis I own mwt.co.uk

There are millions of combinations of valid domain names are that are being sat on, not pointing anywhere (including gary.co.uk), for sale to the highest / stupidest / most desperate bidder.

Now: scroll up the screen and look at that web site excerpt again. Do you think Nominet is doing what is says it does, by letting companies ‘warehouse’ domains and close off part of the .uk domain space until mid-2019 as a result? I don’t.

Do you think they care, bearing in mind that:

  • mwt.co.uk is registered and paid for until 2020?
  • if I buy it off the Parking Crew people, I will have to pay to register it myself?
  • I would then have to pay to register the .uk version?
  • if I didn’t want to pay Parking Crew I’d have to register another name – and pay for it?

In other words: is Nominet using .uk as a cash cow?

(This note was updated late on Sunday to reflect that the Chinese-registered domain wasn’t a .uk one.)

Update (Monday, 9pm). I contacted one of the domain registrars who had one of the short urls I’d selected at random. They said the asking price would be “in 5-figure USD range”. I can register a .uk address through my ISP for around £5 per annum. Which makes Nominet’s view that they are “the trusted guardian of the UK domain name space” even more laughable.

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