In many countries, when the web began, it was decided that a two letter “top level domain”, or TLD, would be sufficient for everyone. So, for example, in Germany, websites just end in “.de”, and in Canada “.ca”. In the UK, however (and wouldn’t you know it), the body in charge, Nominet, decided it would be a sensible to force all “.uk” domains to be categorised at a second level, so website owners were given a choice of things like “.co.uk”, “.gov.uk”, “.ac.uk” etc. You can read the history here. And you can listen to Stephen Fry having an entertaining rant about it here.
That was fine for companies, but it’s always been a bit daft that individuals end up having a “dot-co-dot-uk” site. No longer, however. The simple “.uk” top level domain is being made available in a few weeks’ time, and here are the rules.
If you have a .co.uk domain at the moment, or if you register one before 10 June 2014, you get an automatic right to also register the version without the “.co” in it. That right remains in place for five years, but in June 2019 anyone can get the .uk version of your .co.uk site, so it’d be a good idea to register the .uk one before then if you’ve got any sort of brand which someone else might want to register.
You might be thinking: “What happens if different people own bluewidgetcompany.co.uk and bluewidgetcompany.org.uk, etc.? Who gets the right to bluewidgetcompany.uk?” The right of registration appears to have been given to one or the other, and there’s a lookup tool on a special Nominet website (“Rights Lookup”).
You’ll be able to register your .uk domain name with the same company where you registered the .co.uk, and I’m sure they’ll be keen to tell you all about it in June, if not before. In the meantime, two good pieces of advice from the company where I have some of my own domain names registered: “You do not have to pre-register or pay anyone a fee to reserve the .uk version of a domain that you already hold in the .co.uk space. If there is a .UK domain you would like to register, but you don’t own the .co.uk domain, and the .co.uk domain is currently available, then we suggest that you register the .co.uk version now, so that you have the automatic right to the .uk version when it becomes available.”