Proposals for a .uk domain extension have been greeted with mixed responses from the Internet community.

The UK’s non-profit domain-name governing body Nominet, claim the changes are designed to help boost the economic growth of the Internet within the UK.

With around 93% of all UK domain names using .co.uk, the move could have a huge impact on the UK’s digital economy.

However, some digital professionals have launched a scathing attack on the proposals, claiming them to be nothing more than a ‘shakedown’ which could see businesses hit with an extra £50m of costs per year.

These costs cover a variety of issues, from basic re-branding of stationery items, to a change in PPC costs and even possible SEO implications – a lot of costly changes to make for something that could generate very little extra in return.

Firms will also have to commit further time and energy into deciding whether the switch is worth it, hitting them further in the pocket.

A key criticism from those in the Internet industry tis the fact that any established business would also have to acquire their .uk domain equivalent, or else suffer the consequences.

This is due to the inevitable sunrise periods that Nominet will use – allowing trademark owners to get first dibs on domains – which, whilst fine for big brands, could potentially see smaller companies having their brand name hijacked by competitors in order to steal traffic for their own, non-related site.

As an example, people currently visiting www.nice.org.uk  see the website of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Under the proposed changes nice.uk could lead visitors to a clothing store or whatever service the trademark owner provides – with NICE powerless to do anything.

In fact, some businesses with an established .co.uk domain may find that they have no entitlement to a .uk domain name at all, with that privilege instead going to the trademark holder, or the firm wanting the domain having to wrestle for it at auction.

Significant brands affected by this include Barclays and Ask Jeeves. But it is the smaller firms, who have worked to establish a brand name over many years, that could be the ones to really suffer as a result of the move – with limited budgets perhaps preventing them from being able to afford the trademark.

At present the Nominet proposals are still in the consultation period. Those who wish to voice their disapproval of the scheme can fill in a lengthy feedback form – it’ll take around 90 minutes to do so. Visit the Nominet site for more information.

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