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A host of new, short domain names will be made available under the body responsible for domain names ending in .uk, Nominet. It plans to allow the registration of previously-banned domain names consisting of one or two characters.

The non-profit body also plans to allow people to register names consisting of terms that make up other parts of domains, such as com, gov or edu.

Nominet's Policy Advisory Body (PAB) has recommended the changes and it has now asked users and industry to respond to the plans, which it backs.

"These recommendations and suggestions have been reviewed internally and we consider that in general where there is no longer a technical or policy reason for a restriction in our rules, then those rules should be removed," said a Nominet statement.

Nominet's rules of domain name registration forbid one-character domain names at the 'third level', ie the part of a domain name that comes before the '.co.uk' or '.org.uk' part. The rules also forbid the registration of two-letter domain names in many of the domains that Nominet manages, though a letter and a number combined is allowed.

It is these rules that Nominet is considering changing. It is running a consultation that closes on June 8.

Nominet said that it would operate a 'sunrise' period, a time during which only those with trade mark or other rights to terms can apply for names.

"Given that many of these domains are likely to be highly attractive due to their intrinsic brevity, we agree that is seems appropriate to follow the PAB recommendation for a controlled sunrise release mechanism," it said.

A first round would be open only to the holders of registered trade marks in force in the UK that are identical to the name applied for. Any names left after that process would be open for registration by the holders of unregistered rights.

Nominet is still not decided, though, on how to decide who should get a domain name when two organisations or people have equal rights to it.

"We consider that charities and not for profit organisations should have priority for org.uk domains, and that commercial organisations should have priority for co.uk domains," it said.

But for other domain names where no such distinction can be made, it said that it was "inclined" to opt for a sealed bid auction to decide who should own the name.

The Nominet plan involves only charging enough to cover the costs of the process, it said.

"If any auctions generate a surplus, we intend to gift that surplus to Nominet Trust, a charitable organisation established by Nominet with the objects including the education, relief of financial hardship and protection of children in the area of the Internet and information technology," it said.

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