UK businesses will be able to register their .co.uk internet addresses for up to a decade at a time under a new and more flexible policy agreed by registry Nominet.
Starting 1 May 2012, official registrars will be able to sell domain names for periods of between one and 10 years. This brings .uk into line with other top-level domains including .com and .org.
Under the current Nominet policy, two years is the minimum, and registrants must renew every two years thereafter. Registrars typically sell .co.uk names for between £5 and £10 per year.
"For millions of businesses, their domain name is mission critical – from their website to the email addresses it supports. By offering longer registration periods, these businesses will have peace of mind that their domain name is secured for a number of years, and they won’t have to worry about renewing so frequently," Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley said in a statement.
However, some say there could be a risk that allowing one-year registrations will decrease the quality of the .uk space, leading to a decline in trust.
Higher prices and mandatory multi-year registrations are seen as one way to deter speculators, cyber-squatters and criminals, all of whom can damage confidence in a top-level domain's brand.
According to Nominet's latest research, 76 per cent of .uk domains resolve to a website, though 22 per cent were "parked" by speculators and a further 19 per cent were classified as "holding" pages.
A third of all .uk domains are used by businesses, Nominet says, with a further 6 per cent in use by non-commercial entities such as charities, government agencies and schools.
Compared to some other top-level domains, that's quite a high percentage of addresses actually in use.
The .uk space currently stands at about 9.7 million names. It's the second-largest country-code domain in the world after Germany's .de and is expected to break through 10 million domains in early 2012.
Before making the policy changes, Nominet consulted with its members and stakeholders. ®