What happens to .co.uk domains if Scotland votes to leave the UK?

By Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design (updated 17 February 14)

There are over 10 million registered .uk domain names ending in; co.uk, ltd.uk, me.uk, net.uk, org.uk, plc.uk, sch.uk, ac.uk, gov.uk, mod.uk, mil.uk, nhs.uk and police.uk the last ones not being publicly available.  After you have invested years worth of time effort and cash establishing and promoting your website would ought be interested to know what will happen to Scottish-based .uk domains if Scotland does vote in favour of full independence from the United Kingdom. It is one of the many grey areas that remains unresolved with less than a year to go until the referendum, which in business planning terms is very close. It could be a partial reality in the next financial year.

We asked what would happen to existing and future .co.uk domains administered by UK domain name registrar Nominet, their website statement says: “We derive our authority from the UK internet community, which includes internet users and Nominet members and are acknowledged by the UK Government as the manager of the .uk top level domain as well other top level domains”.  A few mentions of the word “UK” there of course. It’s not just the fact that they are our domains which we have invested in, .co.uk’s carry much more trust than .com’s (see research below) amongst UK consumers and trust is vital component in online purchase process and eCommerce trading.

nominet1Before pushing the panic button, no one is suggesting that any existing domains would be affected. It is easy to register cross border TLD’s (Top Level Domains) like .com .net and .eu to name but a few. But it does cost a bit more than buying domestically and it puts control of your domain outside of your own national and legal borders. Also it might potentially mean having to host some of your domains with different registrars rather than all together which is more efficient and convenient and may even save money. Frankly some domain registrars are better than others. Nominet’s T&C also state “This contract is made under the law of England and any court proceedings must be in the English courts. If you are a consumer in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, we will accept your local law and courts. Enforcement of a court order may be done in any law or court system that is relevant”. So assuming that you are a business that could leave your last recourse fighting a dispute in the English Courts. A distant and costly place to find yourself.  As now, you would still find yourself paying for your domains in UK pound sterling which could be a foreign currency transaction. You can pay for .com’s in GB pounds through a UK based registrar such as 123-Reg but many of the cheaper ones charge in US dollars. I asked Nominet for their view on this matter and will update this post when I hear back  the reply has come from James Middleditch, see the comments below for the full reply, in two parts:

“The current registration rules for .uk domain names managed by Nominet do not include any geographic restrictions, therefore the status of registrants and prospective registrants would not be affected by Scotland becoming an independent country.  The registration policies of second level domains which are managed by public sector bodies, such as gov.uk and nhs.uk, are a matter for those bodies to decide”.

Seems quite clear. Then onto the next part which leaves some points not yet answered, which is a understandable at this time. James went on to say:

“Nominet has consulted on opening up second level registrations in the .uk domain space, this would allow registrants to register example.uk rather than example.co.uk.  One element of the proposals we consulted on is that registrants of second level domain names who are not based in the UK would need to provide a UK ‘address for service’.  This does not mean that the registrant needs to be established in the UK, but that it must nominate a UK address to which legal papers pursuant to the contract can be served.  We believe that this measure will promote a higher degree of consumer confidence as well as ensure that we are in a better position to enforce the terms of our Registrant Contract.   We have not hitherto considered what the impact of Scottish independence would be, but the intention is that this provision should not constitute a major burden to businesses operating outside of the UK in any event.  Our consideration of this question would need to take into account the legal environment and constitutional arrangements that are agreed by the UK and Scottish governments as part of the independence process.”

So in future when registering .co.uk (or other .uk) then we may need to provide a UK based address which seems fair enough if you are UK based company, and this comes down to whether or not Scotland was to remain in the UK, and even with a Yes vote that is a matter for future discussion as part of the process. Now if you want a Scottish based domain read on.

dotscot home

Is there a long term solution for those wanting Scottish based domains?  There are already advanced plans for .scot domains to administered by Dot Scot Registry. The application for .scot has been accepted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and has passed the initial evaluation process which means the domain could be ready to go live in January 2015 the Summer of 2014, but this looks doubtful for something as complex as a new domain from a new Registrant where by mid February they have not even set a price yet. There are many tourism or travel travel related companies who could benefit from this amongst the Scottish diaspora audience, but is it a landrush opportunity or just another cost to business by the need to duplicate domain name extensions? Always hard to tell in advance, (after having some experience of previously registering EvolutionDesign.co – not co for company but Co for from Columbia as I later found out) added to the growing domain portfolio of .eu, .net, .info & .org.uk amongst other variants  just to keep competitors at bay at ever more annual expense. This is a hot topic hundreds of new generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) extensions are coming up for pre-registration soon such as .travel, .architect, .finance and of course .credit.  More on these in a later post to follow along with prices. Yes more opportunities and more cost!

27/1/14: Not-for-profit company Dot Scot Registry (DSR) has announced that it has agreed terms with international regulators to operate a new .scot domain. The domain had not been expected to be available until early 2015. The news means .scot addresses, for both website and email use, could be available to buy this summer. DSR said it had “formally agreed terms” with the international regulatory authority, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to operate the new Top Level Domain (gTLD). ”A timetable and details of costs will be announced soon.”  The Scottish Government welcomed the development, saying it had actively supported DSR in the application process. From BBC News article.

co uk over com

Another question is now raised about trust, which is vital in e-Commerce transactions. Anecdotal evidence indicates that overseas buyers place a lot more trust in .co.uk domains than some other European on non-geographic domains. Who would want to give that advantage up, here or abroad, Nominet’s own recent report states that 81% of British internet users prefer to use a .uk website. Click here to view full report findings > http://db.nominet.org.uk/page/trust-and-awareness/ thanks to Nominet for supplying this report which is of value to internet marketers no matter what occurs in 2014.

So how much is your existing .co.uk domain actually worth?  It’s not be possible to get an exact sterling value as many factors are involved, principally what would anyone pay for it, or how much could it go for at auction. Do you own the Trademark for starters but other factors also come into play, are you buying it to bolt onto an existing business or are you buying the actual web traffic and site ranking? The most basic value is mostly based on domain age and traffic and a few other factors, such as how short the domain is, even does the Buyer already own other similar versions as this can often be established by the Seller through ISP’s such as 123-Reg. You can find out how much data is displayed about website domain owners here: Domains Published Ownership  many people are surprised how much data is publicly available including their home address and e-mail. Tip: when the results page is displayed if the domain is taken click on the word Taken on the left and it will search through the allwhois data and display it for you.

For a free and instant valuation quote go URL Metrics (or Esibot or Valuate) based largely on average traffic and links in but many domains have little intrinsic value and once again it is only worth what someone else is prepared to pay for it. If you want an estimate based on different metrics including ranking and traffic go to URL Metrics and type in your domain address. In recent months their valuation for Evolution-Design.co.uk has varied from £583-£653. URL Metrics values Tesco.com at £4.7 million while valuing bbc.co.uk at £69.7 million, but we all know which one generates the most revenue.

For more information here is a link to a short but informative article by titled How to Value a Domain Name  by Jennifer Kyrnin.

We thank Nominet for their swift reply and for the statistics and graphics copied from their report and website.

So what effect would full independence from the UK have on your business domain? Feel free to share your views?

12 thoughts on “What happens to .co.uk domains if Scotland votes to leave the UK?

  1. I believe this is another scaremongering story by the disorganised and desperate ‘no camp’, who will make up anything to add to the campaign they charmingly named ‘project fear’.

    I look forward to hearing the actual truth!

    • Better to raise issues before so that a transition can be planned, rather than a panic after the event. I can’t see too many politicians worrying about more commercial matters like our company websites and e-mail addresses. There is a White Paper due out in November, hopefully it will supply more answers than questions. Thanks for posting your views.

  2. Thanks for highlighting this, independence or not this .scot is coming and while its always best to have the .co.uk & .com endings it looks like I may have to consider the .scot web address too. I’ve multiple variant versions of my domain so to keep the set Is need to buy at least 3 more. I might just wait and see if it takes off.

  3. Hi Neale,

    The current registration rules for .uk domain names managed by Nominet do not include any geographic restrictions, therefore the status of registrants and prospective registrants would not be affected by Scotland becoming an independent country. The registration policies of second level domains which are managed by public sector bodies, such as gov.uk and nhs.uk, are a matter for those bodies to decide.

    Nominet has consulted on opening up second level registrations in the .uk domain space, this would allow registrants to register example.uk rather than example.co.uk. One element of the proposals we consulted on is that registrants of second level domain names who are not based in the UK would need to provide a UK ‘address for service’. This does not mean that the registrant needs to be established in the UK, but that it must nominate a UK address to which legal papers pursuant to the contract can be served. We believe that this measure will promote a higher degree of consumer confidence as well as ensure that we are in a better position to enforce the terms of our Registrant Contract. We have not hitherto considered what the impact of Scottish independence would be, but the intention is that this provision should not constitute a major burden to businesses operating outside of the UK in any event. Our consideration of this question would need to take into account the legal environment and constitutional arrangements that are agreed by the UK and Scottish governments as part of the independence process.

    Regards

    James Middleditch
    Second Line Support

    Customer Services, Nominet, Minerva House, Edmund Halley Road, Oxford Science Park, Oxford, OX4 4DQ

  4. I don’t think that web users aren’t particularly interested in the slightly esoteric world inhabited by the proponents of gTLDs – they recognise .co.uk and .com and will continue to use them for the next few years regardless of whether independence does or doesn’t happen. I don’t think there will be a seismic shift in the domain name spaces used by Scottish businesses when new gTLDs arrive – user apathy will maintain the status quo for the moment.

    TL;DR real users don’t care what’s at the end of a domain…

  5. The main issue will be for the online retailers that sell through auction sites. The vast majority of buyers buy through their own country site to have the backing of consumer protection law. Losing potentially 90% of your market overnight would be a bit of a shocker.

  6. Great blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?
    A design like yours with a few simple adjustments would really make my own blog
    stand out. Please let me know where you got your design.
    Cheers from a wannabe blogger

  7. This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it very difficult to set up your own blog as I’m not very techincal and am thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any points or suggestions? Thank you

    • Hi Ariele

      Thanks for your very positive feedback. We chose WordPress after many years of using Blogger. We did not use a standard theme and suggest that if you want to stand out and differentiate yourself you also look to getting some professional help is setting it up. If you want more advice contact me through our website.

      Regards

      Neale
      (http//www.evolution-design.co.uk)

  8. It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the future based on best practice and future friendly tech advice, re company domains portfolios.

    Maybe you could write subsequent follow up articles referring to this article?

    Paul S

  9. Great ever more changes means you will need to reprint you business cards and other stationery now and in the future. I love Scotland but love Poland more as its the home of cheap stationery.

    Wheres Wali

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>