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Posted on October 10, 2013

What could have happened to Scottish-based .co.uk domains if Scotland had voted to leave the UK

By Neale Gilhooley, Evolution Design (updated 30th  March  17)

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 might have happened to Scottish-based .uk domains if Scotland had voted in favour of full independence from the United Kingdom. It was one of the many grey areas that remains unresolved even at the date of 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.

nominet1-300x173Before 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-300x176Is 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 at a cost of £34.99 (ten times the cost of a .co.uk), but this looks doubtful for something as complex as a new domain from a new Registrant where by mid February they had not even set a price yet. They now have:

DotScot2

So the next question is that if I have a mature well ranked .co.uk domain why would I want to move to a .scot and more importantly how would my Google ranking be affected by starting again? Knowing Google I’d say not favourably. And that makes it more than just risky it makes it commercial suicide for online brands and retailers unless the transition is managed well over a very long period, without looking like a mirror site. And how long would it take for buyers to trust a .scot? With no apparent budget to promote it maybe never. Read below research done on the trustworthiness and esteem that .co.uk’s are held in.

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!

couk-over-com-300x242

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.  Thanks to Nominet for supplying the report which is of value to internet marketers no matter what occurs in 2014 (now no longer visible online as of 30 March 17).

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?