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Nominet UK is the .uk domain name registry in the United Kingdom, which 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. Nominet is a non-profit 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. As one of the first professional ccTLD operators, Nominet became the model for many other operators worldwide.
Unlike the model for gTLDs and ccTLDs in some other countries, by and large, customers wishing to register a domain do not approach Nominet directly, but register the domain via a registrar. This is an organisation that is authorised by Nominet to register and update domains on behalf of customers, and that has provided a PGP public key to enable Nominet to authenticate communications from them. Registrars were formerly known as "tagholders".
As of March 2012, the .uk register held 10,000,000 .uk domain names making it the second largest ccTLD in the world. Nominet also deals with disputes about registrations of .uk domain names, via its Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) which is similar to the UDRP system used for generic Top Level Domain Names, but with certain innovations such as a free mediation service.
Nominet, which operates the .uk domain, has launched a charitable foundation, the Nominet Trust. Nominet has been running up a surplus (profit) on its ordinary operations since 2003; since its constitution forbids it from distributing surplus funds to members in the manner of a commercial company paying dividends, it is looking into giving to charities instead.
In September 2008, Nominet's board made an initial donation of £5m to its charitable offshoot, which will support "education, research and the funding of suitable projects for the benefit of UK Internet stakeholders". Further donations have been made since this date.
In November 2010, Nominet launched an independent educational website to help people stay safe, do more and drive business online - www.knowthenet.org.uk. The site enables both users of the internet and website publishers to understand how to remain safe, operate within legal requirements and to remain informed of current issues and risks.
It provides reliable information and advice on web-related issues. These range from the most prevalent and common internet scams and fraud to the latest computer viruses, security issues and matters of online child safety. It also features definitions of web-related terms in a jargon buster and practical self-tests to assess an individual’s likelihood to fall victim to scams and other internet-related threats.
Most countries have their own Top Level Domain. The .uk TLD was first used in 1985, 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), 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. 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
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. Whilst the move was generally popular, there was strong resistance from some parts of the industry. 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, 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
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.
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. 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.
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.
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; whilst this was roundly defeated, controversy over its cash reserves remained.
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
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
.mod.uk– operated by the Ministry of Defence
.mil.uk– operated by the Ministry of Defence
Quasi second-level domains
The following are widely used as second-level domains but are registered with Nominet as top-level domains:
.gov.ukwas used as a second-level domain for UK government agencies until 2012 when
gov.ukstarted functioning as a Nominet-registered independent domain.
.ac.ukis commonly used as a second-level domain for UK education and research establishments but
ac.ukis actually a Nominet-registered domain held by JANET.
- .uk domain name
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- Internet Provider Security
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- Peter K. Yu, The Neverending ccTLD Story
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