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.UK is 25 years old

Category : Internet, Internet governance · by Jul 27th, 2010

The United Kingdom’s dot-uk Internet domain is now 25 years old. Which in the Internet world is ancient.

The first dot-uk registrations were in 1985 – a decade before most of us had ever even heard of the Internet. As one of the oldest, dot-uk is also one of the biggest registries in the world. According the organisation that has run the dot-uk registry since 1996, Nominet, it is now the fourth largest registry in the world with 8.5 million registrations (I thought it was fifth after dot-com, dot-net, dot-cn and dot-de. Anyway…)

Of course there shouldn’t really be a “.uk” at all. According to the international standard used to create the “country code” top-level domains on the Internet (ISO 3166-2 (or is it ISO 3166-1?)), the United Kingdom should have been represented by “.gb”, denoting Great Britain. So how come dot-uk even exists?

Well, according to Net folklore, Willie Black – the father of the UK Internet – specifically asked Jon Postel – the US mother of the Internet – to give him “.uk” instead of “.gb”. And, speaking as a Brit, that does make more sense in terms of identity. At the time, what Mr Postel said, went. And so dot-uk came into existence.

The dot-gb top-level domain does actually exist as it officially still registered with the JANET education network – which Willie used to run. I don’t think there are any domains that resolve on it though.

But back to today’s monster of a dot-uk. Nominet has put out this announcement on its 25-year-old charge.

It’s even got a quote from Nominet’s CEO Lesley Cowley. She says: “We are delighted to celebrate 25 years of .uk. In that time, the Internet has changed the lives of billions of people around the World. As businesses, we rely on it for buying and selling goods, as governments for interacting with citizens, and as individuals for organising and managing many aspects of our lives, whether that be online banking, shopping or entertainment.

“Understanding this, Nominet, our registrars and the wider Internet community are all working to ensure that .uk continues to be developed efficiently, effectively and most of all, responsibly – with Internet users at the heart of everything we do. This is referenced in the trust UK consumers place in .uk.

“As for the future – we are looking forward to working closely with the Internet community to uphold the trusted reputation of .uk and to continue to make the Internet a safer, more trusted place for all.”

So there you go – Happy Birthday unique country code identifier of my homeland that shouldn’t strictly exist. You gotta love the Net.

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(1) Comment

Tony Finch
7 years ago ·

The reason Willie Black asked for .uk was because it was already being used for hierarchial naming in the JANET NRS (name registration scheme) albeit with the opposite order to the DNS.

The only domain I know of under .gb is dra.hmg.gb, which belongs to what was the Defence Research Agency. They had an FTP site that hosted some interesting open source software developed at their ex-RSRE Malvern site. This included an Algol 68 compiler (which was released as part of a hardware description language toolkit) and the TenDRA C compiler.

I think “HMG” is rather nicer than “gov” :-)

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