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What is a Domain Name
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Imagine receiving an envelope addressed simply to 'John Smith, Oxford'. Your initial reaction would probably be 'one of surprise, closely followed by admiration for the staff at the mail delivery service who had carefully tracked you down. If the envelope contained really important information, you would probably also be very relieved that it had reached you despite the gaps in the address.

The Internet "mail delivery" service, however, does not work that way. It is fully automated, without the benefit of human intervention or local knowledge, and it therefore has to have very precise ways of identifying where a piece of information is to be sent. Every computer (or server) connected to the Internet is identified by a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address, which is made up of four numbers separated by dots e.g. 132.465.719.213 and this address ensures that electronic messages reach their destination.

Numbers are all very well for computers, but human beings find it easier to remember names, so the early users of the Internet realised that they needed to have a more user-friendly face for IP addresses. They created what became known as the Domain Name System (DNS), giving each computer (or server) a name as well as a number.

If a company or individual wants to have an Internet presence, they usually use a Domain Name to identify them. Most companies try to choose a Domain Name which relates to their trading name and which represents them accurately, although Domain Names are not the same as trademarks.

Initially it was easy for Domain Names to correspond to a company or trading name, making them either guessable or at least easily memorable. However, as the number of Domain Names grew rapidly, the most obvious ones were already registered and companies have become increasingly creative in their choice of Domain Name - whoever would have thought that smile.co.uk or egg.com would quickly become known as Internet banks?

The role of Nominet UK

The Top Level Domains (TLDS) within which a Domain Name can be registered are either generic (such as com, org or net, managed by Verisign of the USA) or country code such as uk, fr and jp. Nominet UK was set up in 1996 to manage the uk Top Level Domain. It is incorporated as a not-for profit company, limited by guarantee.

Nominet operates a Register Database for the most used Second Level Domains (SLDS) within the uk Top Level Domain:

  • .co.uk for commercial enterprises (the largest SLD in the UK)
  • .org.uk for non-commercial organisations
  • .plc.uk and ltd.uk for registered companies only
  • .net.uk for the host machines of network providers
  • .sch.uk for schools

Any Organisation or individual can become a member of Nominet and the current membership (more than 2000 in 2003) is mainly made up of Internet Service Providers. However, it also includes other organisations or individuals who have an interest in the development of the Internet in the UK.

Nominet's initial Domain Name registration fee covers the first two years. Nominet charges its members and non- members to register a Domain Name - with non-members paying substantially more than members. The discount is given to members in return for undertaking some of the administrative arrangements associated with registrations, including end user billing and credit control, which would otherwise have to be carried out by Nominet. Those wanting to know more about how to register a Domain Name can look at Nominet's web site at www.nominet.org.uk or telephone on 01865 332211 to ask for a copy of the Guide to Registering a Domain Name.


Nominet UK does not and cannot determine the legality of competing rights in relation to requests for the registration and delegation of Domain Names. If two applications are received for the same Domain Name, the rule which normally applies is that the one which arrives first has priority.

However, all applicants for Domain Name registrations are required to warrant that their registration of the name does not infringe the rights of a third party.

Although thousands of Domain Names are registered every day without problem, occasionally disputes arise over who has the right to use a particular Domain Name. Those finding themselves caught up in a dispute over a UK Domain Name can appeal to Nominet's Dispute Resolution Service for help.

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Last Updated: 28-Mar-2016
HCI Data Ltd.
HCI Data Ltd is a member of Nominet UK - the  UK Internet  Names Organisation HCI Data Ltd is a member of the Federation of Small Businesses