Nominet has offered up the first shorter .uk web domains for sale and encouraged businesses to acquire the new designation.
The UK domain registry marked the occasion by unveiling a 10,000ft2 sign reading welcometothe.uk on the approach to Heathrow, visible from 65,000ft above.
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It also revealed that comic Stephen Fry was the first person to sign up for a .uk domain.
Although longer top-level domains (TLDs) such as .business or .london were recently made available, Nominet claimed that shorter designations were preferred by most internet users. Trimming the .co from British domains would embrace that broader trend, it said.
“We've found this new domain also has more appeal among our tech-savvy, digitally-engaged population. When asked if they wanted .uk to be an option alongside co.uk, 72% of businesses questioned said yes,” said Eleanor Bradley, Nominet COO.
“Obviously .co.uk has been one of the most popular domains in the world with over 10 million registrations,” said Matt Mansell, managing director of domain registrar 123-reg.
"So this really represents a coming of age. The internet is becoming more complex and there is demand for a shorter, punchier name.”
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Domain owners will have a five-year period in which to decide whether they wish to use the new domain in addition to or instead of .co.uk, which will remain available for now.
However, Mansell said he expected to see the switchover happen quicker than that.
“There is no question in my mind that a business, new or old, will prefer a shorter address. A tipping point will come,” he said.
“From what we’re seeing, the right to transfer is being exercised fairly quickly. We’d been in pre-order for ages and we’ve seen a lot of demand on the opening day,” he added.
The five-year grace period for rights-holders means problems with cyber-squatting and intellectual property rights under the new system should be minimal.