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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 and is soon to start operating the UK ENUM registry, 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 now looking at charitable activities as a means of running down the money mountain.
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 early 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.
Second-level domains managed by Nominet
Second-level domains managed by other organisations
- .bl.uk and .British-library.uk
- .mod.uk and .mil.uk
Italicised entries are legacy second-level domains that refer to individual organisations. No such new domains have been permitted since the foundation of Nominet.
- .uk domain name
- Apple Computer trademark dispute with Benjamin Cohen - Details of Nominet's ruling for Apple Computer in the dispute of the itunes.co.uk domain.
- Internet Provider Security
- ".uk -fit for the future at 10 million". Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- "Country Data". Retrieved 2012-11-19.
- "Introduction to .uk domain disputes". Retrieved 24 January 2013.
- "We are pleased to announce the creation of the Nominet Foundation". Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "Nominet Foundation Trustees appointed". Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- Peter K. Yu, The Neverending ccTLD Story
- "Nominet history (from archive.org)". Archived from the original on 2002-06-02. Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- "UK Web site owners to be charged for co.uk address, Network News". Archived from the original on 1999-11-14.
- "Nominet original memorandum of association" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-07-15.
- Mullins, Andrew (1999-07-05). "Nominet set to demutualise". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2010-05-20.