Internet domain registration company Nominet said yesterday that, from next summer, companies would be able to bid for .uk domain names.

The plan will enable businesses to buy a "xyz.uk" web address to use instead of or alongside "xyz.co.uk", "xyz.org.uk" and other alternatives.

"In an industry that is seeing an unprecedented level of change with the upcoming introduction of over a thousand new top level domains, we're hard at work to ensure innovation in .uk keeps UK web users and businesses ahead of the curve," said Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley.

"At the same time, we're holding ourselves to a higher standard - expanding the choices available to our customers, upping the bar for security, data quality and the way we engage with our registrars to ensure everyone registering, managing or visiting a website with a domain ending in .uk can be proud to be part of a strong, trusted community."

Nominet's decision follows a year-long consultation that it held with business owners on whether the shorter .uk domain should be introduced. 

Businesses were concerned that the current holders of .co.uk domains would have no guarantee of obtaining the .uk equivalents. However, Nominet said yesterday that businesses will have five years to decide if they wish to purchase the shorter web domain, before it is made available to other bidders.

"In the small proportion of instances where there could be competition – e.g. where one person holds example.co.uk and another holds example.org.uk – the shorter domain will be offered to the .co.uk registrant," Nominet said in a statement.

Nominet said it will deal with any issues that arise around intellectual property using its dispute resolution service.

Nominet added that registration for a single .uk domain will cost the same as .co.uk domains (£3.50 per year, or £2.50 per year for multi-year subscriptions).

The Oxford-based firm said it is now assessing how it can cooperate with the security sector to boost the security of its services.

"Nominet is exploring ways to work alongside others in the internet community to help businesses address the increasing challenge of cyber-security and take advantage of opportunities to build a trusted online presence," it said. "Work is underway to develop a tool aimed at helping anybody who has a .uk web presence identify when security-related issues are adversely affecting their domain, with a view to encouraging the take-up of additional website security features."

The firm claims that it launched the new domain to bring the UK in line with other country-code registries, such as Germany's .de or France's .fr.

It's worth noting that governments have been able to use second-level domains for some time but Nominet's proposal relates to their wider commercial sale.

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