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Nominet tosses plan for shorter .uk domains in the bin (for now)

Clear-as-mud proposal to skip the .co in .co.uk

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Dot-uk registry Nominet has rejected its plan to offer shorter domain names - such as theregister.uk - to British businesses after a three-month consultation process ended in utter confusion.

Nominet admitted that its line of questioning had, in places, been "confusing and potentially misinterpreted" by respondents. It had asked (PDF) in the consultation document:

Do you agree that Nominet should consider the provision of a more secure .uk domain name service with registrations directly at the second level?

The outfit offered up this clear-as-mud explanation about why that question in particular had proved so troublesome:

Due to the complex nature of the direct.uk proposal, this question was asked after all the specific features had been explained. However, the answer 'Yes, as we have outlined above' could have been misinterpreted by many as 'Yes, but with the changes that I have outlined above in response to the other questions'.

Exemplifying this, in the comments for 11a and 11b, 41 respondents expressed concern or disagreement with the direct.uk proposal, even though they answered 'Yes, as we have outlined above' to 11a. The question also contains two aspects: (a) a more secure .uk domain name service, and (b) registrations directly at the second level. For example, respondents who, agreed with the principles of (a),but under no circumstances (b), the multiple choice answers available may not have fulfilled their needs.

Given these potentially confusing factors, it is recommended that Nominet do not place too much weight on the data produced by this question, and instead look at the overall positive vs. negative responses to each individual feature/question.

On Wednesday Nominet said it was scrutinising the plan again to see if it could successfully address the "principles of increasing trust and security while maintaining the relevance of the .uk proposition in a changing landscape".

It added that apparently there had been little appetite from the more than 800 respondents who offered their views on the proposal, which was laid out in October 2012.

At present, .co.uk is the most popular suffix used by British companies followed by .org.uk. As things stand, anyone wishing to use .uk domains can only do so by registering them at the third level.

Nominet was hoping to change this - paving the way for domains such as yourcompany.uk without the .co - and weave "the most comprehensive package of security features available" into the web name service.

But one of the problems revealed in analysis of the responses to the consultation was that placing .uk alongside co.uk addresses could prove confusing for British consumers.

It also considered verifying that web address registrants are based in the UK, and scanning websites every day for malware. Nominet had additionally been mulling over using the DNSSEC protocol that cryptographically signs domain name look-up requests, allowing web browsers to alert punters if they visit a hijacked site.

However, some web operators complained that Nominet's decision to present its direct.uk plan with new security features had simply been a poorly spun attempt to sell the proposal to government officials.

The CEO of web-hosting company Flexiant, who is a co-founder of Nominet, welcomed the registry's decision to mothball the plan, but warned that online businesses shouldn't be complacent about the move.

"Let’s hope that if a new proposal is presented, it is truly new rather than a warmed-up version of the last proposal," said Alex Bligh.

"In particular, let’s hope that increasing trust in .uk is dealt with separately from opening direct registrations under .uk as the two issues are entirely orthogonal.

"There were some small nuggets of goodness buried deep within the original proposal (support for DNSSEC for instance), so I’ve no objection to a well thought out replacement proposal (or better pair of proposals) being presented." ®

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