Nominet UK

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Nominet UK is the sole provider of .uk domain nameregistry in the United Kingdom as granted by the UK government[1]. As of 15th September 2020, the .uk register held 10,829,109 .uk domain names [2] which is on a downward trend [3] but remains fourth largest ccTLD. Unlike many other ccTLD Nominet has no restrictions on who can register its domain names.

Nominet was founded by Dr Willie Black and five others on 14 May 1996 when its predecessor, the "Naming Committee" was unable to deal with the volume of registrations then being sought under the .uk domain.[4] Nominet is a profit with a purpose[5] company limited by guarantee. It has members who act as shareholders, but without the right to participate in the profits of the company. Anyone can become a member, but most members are internet service providers who are also registrars.

Customers wishing to register a domain can approach Nominet directly but will generally register the domain via a domain registrar – a business entity authorised by Nominet to register and manage .uk domains on behalf of customers. Registrars for .uk domains were formerly known as "tagholders".

Nominet also deals with disputes about registrations of .uk domain names, via its Dispute Resolution Service (DRS)[6] which is similar to the UDRP system used for generic Top Level Domain Names[further explanation needed], but with certain innovations such as a free mediation service.

Nominet had launched a charitable foundation and contributed some of its public-benefit profits to [7] the Nominet Trust, funded with Nominet grants, which it later abandoned to focus on its own charitable initiatives [8]. Nominet continues to invest some of its profits into a variety of grants, partnerships [9], and programmes [10].

History[edit]

Most countries have their own Top Level Domain. The .uk TLD was first used in 1985,[11] and at that time a voluntary group called the "Naming Committee" managed the registration of .uk domain names. This consisted of members of LINX as full members (the main ISPs in the UK), and their resellers as guest members. By the mid 1990s, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) who registered domains for their customers were joined by a new breed of domain name specialists who had an entrepreneurial attitude to domain names. The Naming Committee operated a ruleset that forced all name registrations to 'exactly' match the name of the registering company and also limited all companies to a single domain name. Although such rules were not exceptional for the time (Network Solutions operated a similar policy in the United States), the growth of a commercial internet soon brought these restrictions into close focus. As demand for domain name registrations grew, it became clear that a voluntary group could no longer cope with the volume of registrations being requested.[12] It also became clear that the existing ruleset was not sustainable and the Naming Committee was going to break down under pressure of registrations.

Birth of Nominet[edit]

When it became clear that a new organisation with a new approach was needed to manage the .uk TLD. The Naming Committee mailing list had mutated into a discussion group for domain name issues and many discussions about what type of corporation the Registry should be were held. Meanwhile, at UKERNA, Dr Willie Black and John Carey, were watching the situation and in 1996 John Carey wrote a proposed plan for a new organisation to be called Nominet. This was distributed widely, and the first Nominet meeting was held at a hotel at Heathrow Airport on 11 April 1996.

The options to set up as a profit-making company or a charity were rejected, and Nominet was established on 14 May 1996 as a private, not-for-profit membership company, limited by guarantee.[13] Whilst the move was generally popular, there was strong resistance from some parts of the industry.[14] Although formed with a board composed of Willie Black (who became the first CEO of the new company), John Carey and the four co-founders drawn from the internet industry,[15] elections were held by the new membership which resulted in the first elected board members to oversee the growth of the UK domain name industry.

Pre-Nominet domain names[edit]

Moving domains to the newly formed company registrants of existing domains were invited to agree to Nominet's new terms and conditions. There were several complaints from pre-Nominet domain owners objecting to the need to start paying for something that was previously free.[citation needed]

Many pre-Nominet domain names had little or no contact information, as a result it has been hard to work out ownership of the domain names[citation needed]. Nominet are running an internal project (the PreNom project) to clear out the remaining pre Nominet domain names so by the end all domain names would be under the new Nominet terms and conditions[citation needed].

Nominet soon realised it had to work hard to protect both the information it held and the legal position of intellectual property and brand owners[citation needed].

Controversy[edit]

Structural issues[edit]

Nominet's success brought with it a number of structural concerns. Over time, it built considerable cash reserves. In 1999, candidates stood for the board on platform similar to 'carpet bagging' attempts with mutual building societies;[16] whilst this was roundly defeated, controversy over its cash reserves remained.

Silencing of Critics[edit]

Speaking at Nominet’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Tuesday morning, the organisation’s CEO Russell Haworth shocked members by announcing he was shutting down its internal web forum – the only means of independent communication between members – effective immediately.[17]

Voting Irregularities[edit]

Nominet was forced to admit it wrongly calculated election results for its board of directors in 2018 and 2019.[18]

Domain Theft[edit]

Eagle-eyed dot-UK registry watchers noticed unexpected changes in ownership of various .uk names, including sunset.uk, waterfall.uk, pad.uk and trending.uk: all of which were sold by Fasthosts to one or more industry insiders rather than going through the proper public process.[19]

Rights of Registration[edit]

Nominet introduction of .UK to compete with .co.uk and .org.uk has resulted in increased cost to UK brand owners and caused much confusion amongst registrants[20][21].

Expiring Domains Consultation[edit]

In July 2020 Nominet announced a new policy consultation for expiring .UK domain names[22] but it has been mired with controversy as it seems not to be in the public's benefit [23][24][25][26].

Staff Pay[edit]

Nominet has consistently increased the salaries of its employees, especially directors. Average salaries have increased from £28,542 in 2002 to £60,276 in 2014. In the same period the highest paid director went from £125,000 to £308,000. [27]

Oversight and Consultation[edit]

In recent years, Nominet have repeatedly altered their constitution to avoid scruitiny, reduce oversight and dispense with consultations. Making it easier for them to increase prices and change their rules to increase their revenues.

Other Activities[edit]

Nominet also delivers the National Cyber Security Centre’s Protective Domain Name Service (PDNS)[28] since 2016, protecting the UK public sector’s internet traffic.

A £4 Million investment into registry services was announced in February 2020 [29] alongside the acquisition of US-based cyber security company, CyGlass[30].

Registry[edit]

Top-level domains[edit]

Nominet manages the registry of the following top-level domains:

  • .uk – top-level domain for the United Kingdom
  • .cymru – top-level domain for Wales
  • .wales – top-level domain for Wales

Second-level domains managed by Nominet[edit]

Nominet manages the following second-level domains:

  • .co.uk – unrestricted, intended for businesses
  • .org.uk – unrestricted, intended for non-profit organisations
  • .net.uk – reserved exclusively for UK internet service providers
  • .ltd.uk – reserved exclusively for UK limited liability companies; subdomain must correspond to the company's registered name
  • .plc.uk – reserved exclusively for UK public limited companies; subdomain must correspond to the company's registered name
  • .sch.uk – reserved exclusively for primary and secondary schools
  • .me.uk – unrestricted, intended for personal use

Second-level domains managed by other organisations[edit]

  • .mod.uk – operated by the Ministry of Defence
  • .mil.uk – operated by the Ministry of Defence

Quasi second-level domains[edit]

The following are widely used as second-level domains but are registered with Nominet as top-level domains:

  • .gov.uk was used as a second-level domain for UK government agencies until 2012 when gov.uk started functioning as a Nominet-registered independent domain.
  • .ac.uk is commonly used as a second-level domain for UK education and research establishments but ac.uk is actually a Nominet-registered domain held by JANET.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "House of Commons - Culture, Media and Sport - Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  2. ^ ".UK Register Statistics - 2020". Nominet. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  3. ^ "Nominet Operational Statistics June 2020" (PDF).
  4. ^ Mansell, Robin; Mansell, Dixons Chair in New Media and the Internet Interdepartmental Programme in Media and Communications Robin (2002). Inside the Communication Revolution: Evolving Patterns of Social and Technical Interaction. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-829656-0.
  5. ^ News, Bdaily Business. "Chasing the Stigma to receive more than £50,000 of funding from Nominet". Bdaily Business News. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  6. ^ "Introduction to .uk domain disputes". Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  7. ^ "We are pleased to announce the creation of the Nominet Foundation". Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  8. ^ ".UK overseer Nominet abandons its own charitable foundation – and why this matters". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  9. ^ "Nominet and Samaritans Corporate Partnership". Samaritans. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  10. ^ Donnell, Katie (2019-12-11). "stem4 selected for Nominet #RESET Mental Health Programme". stem4. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  11. ^ Peter K. Yu, The Neverending ccTLD Story
  12. ^ "Nominet UK". Nominet. Archived from the original on 1999-05-03. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  13. ^ "Nominet history (from archive.org)". Archived from the original on 2002-06-02. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
  14. ^ "UK Web site owners to be charged for co.uk address, Network News". Archived from the original on 1999-11-14.
  15. ^ "Nominet original memorandum of association" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-06.
  16. ^ Mullins, Andrew (1999-07-05). "Nominet set to demutualise". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  17. ^ ".uk registry operator Nominet responds to renewed criticism – by silencing its critics". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  18. ^ ".UK overlord Nominet tells everyone not to worry about 'distorted' vote allocations in its board elections". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  19. ^ "What the hell is going on with .uk? Dozens of domain names sold in error, then reversed, but we'll say no more about it, says oversight org". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  20. ^ "Whose side you on, Nominet? Registry floods .co.uk owners with begging emails to renew unwanted .uk domains". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  21. ^ "Fasthosts finally promises to stop pushing unwanted .uk domains onto irritated customers". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  22. ^ "Nominet announces new policy consultation for expiring .UK domains". Nominet. 2020-07-16. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  23. ^ "Fasthosts finally promises to stop pushing unwanted .uk domains onto irritated customers". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  24. ^ "Nominet backtracks on .uk domain expiration money grab, critics still fear sweetheart deal to come". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  25. ^ "Nominet promises .uk owners it'll listen to feedback on plan to award itself millions... as long as it agrees with it". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  26. ^ "Nominet shakes up system for expiring .uk domains, just happens to choose one that will make it £millions. Again". www.theregister.com. Retrieved 2020-09-23.
  27. ^ https://www.theregister.com/2015/11/25/nominet_raises_price_uk_domains/
  28. ^ "Protective DNS (PDNS)". www.ncsc.gov.uk. Retrieved 2020-09-17.
  29. ^ "Nominet announces strategic investments in registry and cyber". Nominet. 2020-02-20. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
  30. ^ "CyGlass - Network Defense as a Service". CyGlass. Retrieved 2020-09-17.

External links[edit]