Shorter .uk internet domain proposed by Nominet

Nominet graphics of UK Nominet already offers seven internet domains ending in .uk

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Plans to offer UK-based firms shorter internet domain names backed by added security features have been proposed.

The scheme would give businesses the chance to register www.name.uk as their web address. It would run alongside the current www.name.co.uk service.

Applicants would have to prove they had a UK presence and pay a higher fee.

A three-month consultation is under way. Some companies may oppose the move on the grounds they already face having to buy other new net addresses.

Icann (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is creating hundreds of other top-level domains as part of a separate expansion set to create addresses ending in .home, .shop and .play.

Businesses may feel compelled to register a variety of these new addresses in order to protect their brand, incurring additional costs.

Security features

The new UK service is being proposed by Nominet, the non-profit body responsible for overseeing all net addresses ending in .uk.

"We have been asked over the many years we've been in operation as to whether or not we would allow these shorter domain names," Eleanor Bradley, Nominet's director of operations, told the BBC.

She said the facility would be sold at a wholesale price of about £20 per .uk address a year, as opposed to the existing £5 fee to run a .co.uk domain for two years. Domain registration businesses would then add their own costs before selling on the products.

Ms Bradley added that the service would also include security features designed to reduce the risk of cybercrime.

"We would do daily malware scanning of these domain names and associated sites and they would be DNSSEC-signed [Domain Name System Security Extensions] - that's a security protocol that adds a digital signature to a domain to minimise the risk of domain-hijacking, and it also ensures that when you are going to go to a domain you reach the one you wanted to reach.

"It would all be brought together with a Trust Mark so that consumers and people visiting these .uk domain names would get an immediate indication of the security and nature of the registration."

She stressed that the idea was "not a money making exercise" and that any additional earnings derived would be passed onto an independent trust to invest in improving internet access and security.

Nominet plans to run its consultation until 7 January, and has set up a site offering more information including where to email responses.

It already offers registered companies the chance to use plc.uk and ltd.uk as alternatives to .co.uk.

In addition .sch.uk can be used by schools; net.uk by ISPs (internet service providers); org.uk by non-commercial organisations and me.uk by individuals.

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