British firms offered shorter, more secure ‘.uk’ web addresses

British firms are being offered the chance to operate in a new, more tightly regulated area of the web where “.co.uk” addresses will be shortened to “.uk”.

Nominet, the organisation which oversees British web addresses, has opened a consultation on plans that would see websites with a new “.uk” suffix subjected to closer scrutiny to guard against fraud and the spread of computer viruses.

Firms that want a shorter address will have to prove they are based in Britain and pay charges up to eight times more than for a “.co.uk” address. Whereas registering a “.co.uk” address for two years costs £5 at wholesale, a “.uk” address could cost up to £20 per year, Nominet said.

Contact details for each business would be checked and “.uk” websites would be regularly scanned for viruses. They would also comply with DNSSEC, a relatively new technical standard that helps ensure browsers connect to websites securely.

No such measures are in place for “.co.uk” addresses, which are oftened registered from abroad with false or anonymised contact details.

Nominet said the new “.uk” web addresses would meet “the needs of those businesses that wish to have an online presence which demonstrates their commitment to online security and trust”.

“This is about offering greater choice,” said Eleanor Bradley, Nominet’s director of operations.

“If you’re currently using a ‘.co.uk’ domain name then there would be no requirement to change.”

Nominet, which runs the British web address registry on a not-profit basis, is consulting until 7 January on its plans, claiming it will boost the online economy.

The proposals are likely to attract some concern from website operators, however, who already face a radical expansion of possible web addresses by ICANN, the global overseer of the Domain Name System.

From next year it will allow organisations to create their own web address suffixes. Big brands including Google and the BBC have applied to create their own new Top-Level Domains. New generic suffixes such as .bank and .holiday are also in the works, potentially adding to website operators’ administration costs.

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