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Nominet Raises £3m In Short UK Domain Auction

Single-character domain names were in hot demand at Nominet’s .uk auction, selling for an average of £39,000

On by Sophie Curtis 0

The .uk domain registry Nominet has auctioned off its one- and two-letter domain names, with twelve of the single letter addresses netting an average of £39,000 each.

According to a report in the Financial Times, a total of 2,831 web addresses were sold, raising £3 million for the Nominet Trust, an independent charity promoting Internet access, safety and education.

Single-character domain names such as x.co.uk and 1.co.uk were in hot demand, and some have already been sold on to new registrants. Google was outbid for the rights to g.co.uk by Any-Web, a company which collects, builds and resells domain names. Any-Web is thought to have paid £76,000 for the domain name and is believed to be the auction’s biggest spender.

Other notable buyers of two-letter domains include Facebook, which bought fb.co.uk for £19,500, H&M grabbing hm.co.uk for £10,000 and Mercedes-Benz purchasing mb.co.uk for £12,000. All prices are before VAT.

“It was an auction of the most significant Internet real estate to come on the market ever,” a source involved in multiple auctions told the FT. “I don’t think we will see anything like it again.”

A list of sales compiled by domain names guru Ty Hancocks can be found here.

Enhancing brand value

Domain names are usually offered on a first come first served basis but these short domains were previously held back for technical reasons. However, following a policy review and a public consultation last year, Nominet decided to allow companies to apply for domains that matched their trademark.

Between 1 December 2010 and 17 January 2011, companies were able to apply for domains, as long as they could provide evidence of using the trademark in the UK prior to 1 January 2008. Only 220 brands successfully acquired domains this way, including British Airways (ba.co.uk) and Virgin Enterprises (v.co.uk). The remaining domains were put up for auction in August and September.

“Having the .uk short domain URL can enhance brand value and increase customer access to businesses and individuals via search engines and beyond,” said Nick Wenban-Smith, senior legal counsel at Nominet, at the time.

Meanwhile, Nominet last month decided to move ahead with proposed rules that could allow law enforcement agencies to request a domain be shut down without a court order. The registrar launched the process in response to a request from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Currently Nominet’s rules don’t allow for domains to be shut down for criminal reasons, though in the past it has blocked domains at the request of law enforcement agencies on the pretext that they provided false contact details.

Nominet’s director of policy, Alex Blowers, said the policy was intended for cases where the delay needed to obtain a court order would allow damage to consumers.

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