What's in an (electronic) name? From restoring confidence in .UK to communicating with HMG

Nominet has just announced a new consultation on its attempts to secure support for “putting the UK back into .UK”  and ensuring that those using .uk names for transactions are compliant with the e-commerce directive (i.e there is a physical address which can be contacted in the event of problems). I strongly recommend you read the Nominet press release (below). The first round of briefing sessions begins next week but the deadline for response is no until September 23rd. I have therefore suggested to Nominet that it works with the Digital Policy Alliance and groups like Vendorcom and the British Retail Consortium to organise a second, more widely publicised round of events in early September for those who want their customers to have the confidence to transact with them on-line in the knowledge they they will have redress in the UK, under UK law, in event of problems.

The proposals need to also be seen in wider context, as an opportunity to put a brake on the interminable merry-go-round of  discussion over electronic identities (for businesses as well as for individuals) between those who want to ignore the many identity products and services already in widespread use (and centuries of experience, including over 150 years with international electronic communications

In parallel Cabinet Office has released a consultation on its identity principles. These appear unchanged in over 18 months, although I am told that some of the supporting details have evolved. I am told that this lacks an understanding of the need for ID providers to have a business case for providing the services envisaged by HMG, let alone how that business case might relate to existing commercial identity markets: from the Scrivenors (with their quiet, centuries old monopoly over the authentication of high value transactions) to Citizencard (and similar services for frequent fliers and those being given similar fast-track service) with a wide variety of supporting services to authenticate individual or businesses and evaluate the risks (not just financial) of doing business with them: from Experian, Call Credit to DNV and Kroll.

Meanwhile the rest of the world is going mobile. More of humanity now use mobile phones than use toothbrushes – and you cannot use a toothbrush to transmit money to your family, whether they are in the next village or a thousand miles away. Hence the value of linking discussion to the world of “trusted computing” and the ability to have reasonable confidence as to which device to are talking to and where it is – and with certainty, who is using it. 

Government is indeed different, given the potential suffering of a patient receiving the wrong treatment or of some-one whose benefits have been stolen along with their identity. Hence the reluctance of commercial players to take responsibility for the risks that the state is seeking to pass to them as part of its “cost saving” programmes. Hence also the need for rational debate over mediation and arbitration processes (perhaps akin to those organised via CEDR for over thirty sectors, public and private around the world). However, setting up such services commonly entails clarity over matters such as the audit trails necessary to facilitate reddress when (not just if) things go wrong. This is particularly important, but also difficult, with regard to health care and welfare where human beings suffer and die, albeit more probably from error than from a data leak or impersonation. it is, thefore, all the more important to build on experience  of what works and what does not.

In the mean time, back to a much simpler  problem. here is the Nominet Press Release in full:

Nominet proposes new policy for second level domain registrations

Consultation on new, shorter domains launches today


Oxford, UK – 1 July 2013: Nominet, the not-for-profit organisation best known for running the .uk internet infrastructure, today launches its revised proposal for .uk domain name registrations at the second level (www.example.uk). This forms part of a broader programme of work announced last month.

The company believes that a new second level domains policy is necessary to keep the namespace competitive alongside the introduction of over 1,000 new top level domains from 2014.  Combining a shorter suffix with the trust of the ‘.uk’ brand would offer a wider choice for existing .uk registrants and the millions of consumers and businesses who do not yet have their own online space.

Following a public consultation last year, Nominet put its initial plans for second level .uk domain registrations on hold, whilst feedback and suggestions were considered in depth. Nominet has responded by making significant changes to the original direct.uk proposal. The key elements of the new proposal and consultation are:

·         Enhanced checks on data supplied for all registrations. The process would ensure that the named individual resides, or the named business trades, at the specified address.  This aims to enhance consumer trust in the registration process and the data on record.   Information on any registrations to businesses would be displayed in the ‘WHOIS’ – the database of registrants for all domains.

·         For registrants not based in the UK, a UK ‘address for service’ would be required. This would also be displayed in the WHOIS.

·         A ‘right of first refusal’ would give registrants of existing .uk domain names at the third level (e.g. .co.uk, .me.uk, .org.uk etc) the opportunity to secure the corresponding registration at the second level. In the event of two competing claims, the oldest current, continuous registration1 would be given priority. The proposal is to run the right of first refusal for a 6 month period from launch.

·         Domains not covered by a right of first refusal would be available to register from launch on a first-come, first-served, basis.

·         A competitive price point, with a proposed wholesale fee of £5.50 for one year or £4.50 per year for multi-year registrations.

·         Many bodies currently using .gov.uk domains will no longer be able to do so under the Government Digital Transformation Programme, which will consolidate the domains under gov.uk.  We propose to reserve the affected domains (using 1 July 2013 as the cut-off date for registrations).

·         A commitment to offer services to improve security across the whole .uk namespace.

The proposed service would sit alongside the existing portfolio of third level of domains administered by Nominet.  The high levels of awareness, recognition and trust associated with the current .uk namespace will continue to be attractive for millions of registrants, and Nominet is committed to offering, supporting and investing in all existing third levels, including .co.uk, .me.uk and .org.uk.

Nominet expects that some registrants would want to hold corresponding domains in both the third and second levels, or over time, move from one to the other.  The consultation asks for feedback on options such as discounting or reserving names, which could help ensure that this is practical and affordable.

Lesley Cowley, Chief Executive Officer at Nominet, said: “We listened to the extensive feedback on the initial consultation and the revised proposal is significantly different as a result.  We believe this is the right step to safeguard the long-term relevance of the .uk namespace in the face of unprecedented competition.  By attracting more consumers and businesses to a trusted and reliable online home, we can continue to make a strong contribution to the thriving UK digital economy.  But we are determined to harness the views of stakeholders so that, if we proceed, we do so in a way that is fair and practical.”

Simon McCalla, Nominet’s Chief Technology Officer said: “In response to the strength of feeling from our first consultation, we are tackling security differently.  Moving forward, our approach has changed in two ways.  Firstly, we have de-coupled security features from the second level domain proposals and will tackle this as part of a broader security roadmap that benefits the whole namespace.  Secondly we will be working with registrars to develop and introduce new security features rather than mandating change.” 

The consultation will run until 23 September 2013 and responses will be published in November after the Nominet board has had the opportunity to review all the feedback.

If a decision to go ahead is taken, Nominet would notify existing registrants by email, and would run an awareness campaign to ensure that existing registrants have every opportunity to exercise their right of first refusal. Nominet would also offer existing .co.uk, .me.uk and .gov.uk registrants the opportunity to validate and verify their data for a nominal fee. However, this would not be mandatory.

For details of the consultation, please visit  

Notes to Editors

For further news of Nominet’s overall programme, please visit www.nominet.org.uk/news for updates and information.


1. This means the oldest continuous registration.  A domain registration may have changed hands, but as long as the registration has not been stopped, the date it was first registered will determine which registration has priority.

About Nominet

Domain names are one of the key building blocks of the internet – an essential component of every email address and website. Millions of businesses and consumers now depend on Nominet’s services, which underpin a critical part of the UK Internet economy.

Nominet is a private, not-for-profit business, responsible for the smooth and secure running of the .uk internet infrastructure.  We have over 2,800 members and are committed to acting in the public interest.

Nominet has also recently been chosen by several brands and communities to launch and manage new top level domains; wales, .cymru, .bbc .bentley, .comcast and .xfinity.

With the proceeds of their successful registry business, Nominet set up and supports the Nominet Trust, an independent charitable foundation focussed on increasing access, safety and education on internet issues.

As part of a commitment to making the internet a more trusted space, Nominet has also developed an information and advice portal – www.knowthenet.org.uk – which helps internet users to get the most of being online by staying safe, legal, and informed.

Follow Nominet on Twitter here, or visit its blog here.

For more information

Please contact Patrick Yiu at Brands2Life on 020 7592 1200 or by email at [email protected]