Domain check: finding alternatives to a .uk domain

The internet country code .uk is the top-level domain for the United Kingdom, and as of early 2016, it was the fifth most popular top-level domain worldwide with more than 10 million registrations. For a while .gb was also used, but now it is no longer possible to register under this domain.

Nominet has been accepting new registrations under .uk since June 2014, although customers who have any of the .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .ltd.uk, .net.uk, or .plc.uk domains must claim their .uk domain equivalent before June 2019, which is when the reservation period ends. If your domain was registered before 28th October 2013, you have the registration rights to the equivalent. For example, if your web address is 'my-company.co.uk' and was created before June 2014, you have the right to change it to 'my-company.uk'.

Alternatives to .uk domains

It could be, however, that you don’t want a .uk domain and would prefer an alternative domain extension. Luckily there are lots to choose from. The .com domain is the most popular and as of January 2016, there were over 100 million internet addresses registered with this coveted domain ending. Since this is a top-level domain internationally, it makes sense to go for this option if you are targeting the world market. If you plan to keep your business closer to home, a .co.uk domain could be the right choice for you and it will also cost less to register! ICANN and since you don’t necessarily need to register your domain through a UK registrar, it means you have a lot more choice when deciding who to register with.

Find out if your desired .com domain is still available or choose from a range of various generic top-level domains:

Domain Check
  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .info
  • .online
  • .shop
  • .
  • .

What to do if the domain name is taken?

You might have thought of the perfect domain name, but when you attempt to buy it, it’s not available. There can be many reasons for this, some of which include:

  • The owner is using it for their own website
  • The owner plans to use it for a site that hasn’t yet been launched
  • The owner is using the name since it’s similar to their actual domain, and visitors are being redirected from this domain to the owner’s actual domain
  • The owner is using the domain for e-mail addresses (e.g. example@desireddomain.uk)
  • The owner wants to stop others from using their name
  • Cybersquatters are registering the name in order to make a profit

It’s frustrating to see that your domain name is taken and the owner isn’t actually doing anything with it, but as long as they’re paying for it, no-one else can touch it. The only way you can get your hands on it is to get in touch with the owner and ask if they’re willing to sell it to you. If the domain happens to expire and the owner doesn’t renew it, it might also become available. To find out who owns the domain, you can try Whois Lookup, but be prepared for the domain owner to ask a lot of money for it – and that’s if they actually want to sell it in the first place! This is especially true for cybersquatters who register domains that they presume will be popular, so that when someone legitimately wants to buy the domain, they may be willing to pay a lot more than it’s worth. Cybersquatters take advantage of .com domains’ popularity and register many popular URLs in the hope that a business will buy them off them for a profit.

You can still use the name, but with a different TLD i.e. desireddomain.info instead of desireddomain.uk. One of the downfalls of this is that when a visitor is trying to remember your domain, they might revert out of habit to the .uk address and not find yours.

A short BBC documentary explains how domain traders, also referred to as “domainers”, can make hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pounds from buying and selling domains. In this video, find out how some of these entrepreneurs got involved in this big moneymaking business.

Generic top-level domains

Unlike country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like .uk or .ca, generic top-level domains (gTLDs) do not necessarily refer to a particular country. Instead, gTLDs offer website owners the opportunity to highlight the genre of their website; for example, .gov indicates that the website is affiliated with a government, and .edu is for educational institutions. This list shows a few more examples:

  • .ac.uk: academic
  • .gov.uk: government
  • .ltd.uk: limited companies
  • .plc.uk: public limited companies
  • .nhs.uk: National Health Service institutions
  • .sch.uk: local education authorities, schools, primary and secondary education, community education

But if you want to stick to TLDs, rather than second-level domains, you also have all these options: .net, .org, .biz, and .info so it is easy to find a relevant alternate domain name.

gTLDs can also be divided into two different types: some domain endings have existed for many years (such as .com, .net, .org and .biz), and have become well-established in the process. In addition to the classic gTLDs, there are also new generic top-level domains (new gTLDs or nTLDs). These include all the domain endings that have gradually been introduced since 2013, such as .online, .web, .page and .info. Many new top-level domains are already available, but in the long term, the number will tally well over 1,000.

Many of the nTLDs refer to a specific genre of website. For example, .shop, .sport, .club, and .hotel can be used to emphasise the type of web presence and its purpose. Regional endings like .nyc, .quebec, .london and .capetown are also now available. These nTLDs present interesting new options for website owners to make their domain more relevant to their website. However there are also more abstract nTLDs that don’t have a solid context, such as .xyz and .now.

Advantages of generic top-level domains

There are some clear benefits of top-level domains. For example, if you’re setting up a website for your business or brand, but the most suitable .uk domain is already taken, you can still create a memorable domain name alternative using a free nTLD.

It’s also possible to indicate the contents of the site through nTLDs. For example, if you run a web store, there are many nTLDs, extending far beyond the now commonplace .shop, .shopping, and .store; depending on your concept and stock, you can also use nTLDs like .boutique, .fashion, or .shoes to match the goods and services you provide. nTLDs cover many more branches and sectors than just these examples.

If your website is open to an international audience, it’s a particularly good idea to use a top-level domain. Country-specific domains (such as .uk and .ca) tend to put off international visitors, whereas endings like .web, .com and .online are internationally recognised, suggesting no geographical limitations.

Reserving and buying the right domain

You can register a domain online with a domain name registrar - an organisation that distributes domains and provides other services such as web hosting. Generally speaking, providers also offer a domain name search, a function that enables users to find out if their desired domain is still available. However, it’s important to note that some of the new top-level domains can only be pre-ordered for now, as they have not yet been officially launched.

Tip

Still don’t have a domain? Get one with 1&1!

Of course, cost is an ever-important factor when choosing a domain name. Prices can vary wildly, ranging from a few pence all the way up to £10 a month. Users usually buy domains from domain name registrars, who then submit the application to the correct agency and ensure all the necessary steps for creating the domain are carried out. For more tips on the topic, consult our handy guide on domain registration.

Getting your own domain is easier than many people think. Even if your desired address is unavailable with a .uk domain ending, there’s now a whole host of solid TLD alternatives to choose from. This new abundance of nTLDs ensures that anyone can register a fitting domain name alternative for their internet presence.