On the 10th June 2014 Nominet expanded the range of UK domain extensions available with the launch of .uk domain names, eg. yourdomain.uk. They are predicted to become the new premium UK domain name for business, and anyone else who likes the idea of using a shorter, sharper and more memorable web address over the current default commercial choice of .co.uk. This is in line with a current trend for shorter web addresses and can be seen as a modernisation of the UK domain space. It will also allow UK domains to compete alongside the many 100's of new top level domains (TLD's) currently being introduced, such as .web, .clothing, .london and many others. A further benefit is that it will bring the UK in line with most other European countries such as Germany (.de) and France (.fr).
Assuming the predicted popularity of these .uk domains is realised, then this will mean that for all existing .co.uk owners it's very important that they are able to protect the goodwill that has been established on their existing domain name(s) and carry it across to the new .uk version, if they so choose. To this end, this introduction is unusual in that there will not be a "free-for-all" public access to these new addresses until June 2019. Existing owners of UK domains will be given exclusive rights to register the .uk version of their names, via a free five year option, allowing them to register at any time during this period; only at this point will renewal charges be applied. These rights are being awarded primarily to holders of the .co.uk equivalent domain, but in a few cases holders of the .org.uk domain will find themselves entitled to these rights.
In cases where there is no existing registration of either the .co.uk or .org.uk then the new .uk domain will be available to register immediately. But, being as the vast majority of all meaningful or valuable domains have already been registered, then availability from day one will be very limited. The only way to access the .uk version in these cases will be by securing the currently registered .co.uk or .org.uk version that holds the rights, and then registering the .uk domain. Buyers need to be sure that when they secure existing domains that they also gain the rights to the .uk version. An unscrupulous seller may be tempted to register the new .uk version just prior to transferring ownership of the .co.uk or .org.uk domain. All of the domains offered for sale on Domain For Sale will include the rights to the .uk version of the domain and this means that you are effectively buying two domains for the purchase price. Whether you actually use these rights is your choice and there will be plenty of time to consider the merits of doing so, allowing you the opportunity to see how popular they become before committing to the new address, with all of the associated costs for rebranding etc.
Since the new .uk domains are being offered alongside the existing extensions then this means that it will be prudent to maintain your existing domain(s); not least as defensive registrations in order to protect your chosen address. You will also need be sure that visitors who may be assuming you are still operating on .co.uk can then be forwarded on to your new .uk address automatically, and not lost to a competitor. In the long term .co.uk domains may well be seen as second rate addresses, as .uk gains traction and becomes the new default commercial domain to use, but this has yet to be proven. In the meantime the cost to businesses to maintain their domains will increase, which is one of the most controversial elements of this new introduction by Nominet. The option of a migration from .co.uk to .uk was not chosen, potentially undermining the strong presence that .co.uk has gained over the last 10-15 years. Nevertheless, the perception of industry insiders is that the new .uk addresses will be received favourably, once the public become aware. One registration and use from a prominent organisation such as the BBC may well be all that is required to help gain the necessary momentum.
Retail pricing for the .uk domains is generally higher than that of .co.uk domains, due to the premium nature of these domains.
If you want to verify which current UK domain qualifies for these rights then you can use the WHOIS tool on the Nominet website. By entering your domain name in the new format, eg. yourdomain.uk, the WHOIS output will confirm which currently registered domain is the rights holder. You may also want to visit the promotional Dot UK Launch website that Nominet have provided for more information.